Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional
As Covid-19 has changed many organisations into a collection of small, remote working teams Cate Murden offers advice on how to make these new practices successful.
As we emerge from the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, dazed by the levels of destruction the virus has wreaked on our health, wellbeing and working practices, the question on many lips is ‘What now?’
A second wave seems inevitable, if it isn’t here already and, having faced the most momentous upheaval in society since the Second World War, we can only wonder at what might be in store for us in the coming months.
The changes to our workplaces brought about by Covid-19 are unprecedented. Many commentators say businesses and employees have, in the space of a few weeks, been catapulted five, ten, even twenty years into the future.
With varying degrees of success, we have adapted to homeworking and running our organisations remotely. The daily commute, the lunch hour, the sleepy mid-afternoon team meeting and the trudge homewards all seem relics of a bygone era. Yet less than a year ago this was the norm for millions of us.
It seems that fewer of us are creeping back to those commutes than expected. According to a recent survey by the Office for National Statistics, almost 40% of the UK workforce continues to work remotely and among IT and professional workers, this is as high as 75%. Despite Government pleas to get back on the office-bound bus, few are heeding the call.
Small, nimble and well-connected teams of flexible people are right on-trend now
Why? Many cite continuing fears over COVID, which is a valid enough reason. Others, however, point to the fact that we have adapted astonishingly quickly to the new norm and, having done so, are reluctant (to say the least) to return to the past.
Many firms, particularly those in the tech sector and the City, are embracing the dynamism of rapid change and reporting what we might term 'COVID-positives' – less complicated operating models, greater flexibility, the hiring of new talent and staff more than happy to be working remotely.
However, this isn’t necessarily the whole story. At first, there was a novelty in being allowed to evacuate the office and work from home indefinitely.
Now, though, the novelty has definitely worn off and employees working remotely are reporting the relentlessness and sameness of their new working situation affecting their mental health. Even so, they may also be reluctant to return to work full-time, tacitly acknowledging that the world of the workplace has changed, probably forever.
With work from home on the agenda indefinitely, so many businesses have been forced to re-evaluate both their team structures and management styles. Small, nimble and well-connected teams of flexible people are right on-trend now, with these teams capable of smarter decision-making while ensuring inclusivity and cohesion, leading us to realise against contrary beliefs, small is actually beautiful.
Part of what makes these smaller, remote team units so effective is the parameters in which they operate and the fundamental requirements, essential for their success. These highly skilled teams may in-fact become the lifeblood of dynamic organisations not least for their professional skills but also for their ability to communicate effectively and simply get the job done.
It may seem obvious to some, but a distinct move away from more traditional ways of working, such as micro-managing or command and control, forces the leadership team to trust their people more and by doing so, this empowerment tents to catalyse growth, development and ambition from within the teams themselves.
That said, there are a few vital factors required to make these small and remote employee frameworks successful.
- The organisation must have a leadership team who are capable of empowering every member of their team as well as acting fast and pivoting any or all aspects of the business when and if a crisis occurs.
- The business must have a clear company vision accessible to every employee, empowering them to visualise their own career ladder and the opportunities available to them to succeed within their team units.
- These independent teams must also understand their role within overall company vision and be empowered to make decisions autonomously when required.
- Each small but powerful team should be run by brilliant managers who focus on coaching and developing their teams towards success, rather than getting caught up in the weeds and micromanaging the finite details.
- Providing the team with clear KPI's is also really important but rather than hand-holding them towards the final goal, hold them accountable, but let them work out how to achieve these KPI's together.
- Regular personal and professional development is also so important when it comes to empowering and developing small, nimble teams. There should be marked importance and priority placed on this investment in personal and professional development as a healthy and happy team will always result in a prosperous and successful business.
It’s more important to cultivate an environment that empowers the teams and keeps them working at their best, than it is to try and force-fit a culture into each team to keep everything the same, just for the sake of continuity.
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