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Pivoting from crisis management to long term flexible working

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Earlier this week the Irish Government released a Remote Working Strategy to provide companies with the basic guidance on what will be expected in a post-Covid world. The last year has been less about fostering a competitive business through flexible working, and more around crisis management.

As we think about a world post-Covid, how do companies double down on the benefits that working from home has offered? How do they do it in a focussed way that helps both the individual, as well as the organisation's strategic goals?

Organisations need to focus on change management and embedding the change into the culture of the organisation. Two areas that are difficult, but if managed properly can allow a company to thrive.

Why Bother Investing in Building a long term Flexible working strategy?

We’re at the early stages of an industrial revolution triggered by the rapid development of technology. The move towards providing more flexible working conditions has been greatly sped up by the pandemic. Companies who fail to live in the past will be left in the dust. If you don’t adapt you will lose good people. If your industry has the capacity to allow people to work from home, then it’s highly probable that some of your employees want to continue working from home. If you want to attract and retain great people, then it’s something you need to take seriously.

Don’t Boil the Ocean

Start off with getting the team collaboration right and providing the basic supports for people to do their job. People want to know:

- How do I know what I should be working on today/this week/this month? - How do I communicate with the other members of my team and our customers? - How do I make sure my other team members know what I’m working on? - How do I know what the other members of my team are working on?

Going from having employees working in the office to suddenly having people working different hours and communicating with each other in a different way is a huge change to how teams work together. This in itself has the ability to make people feel extremely insecure.

An employee who is feeling this sense of insecurity does not have the mental capacity to work to their full potential and be a high performing member of the organisation. By adding new technology and vastly different processes on top of this in one sweep adds risk. This can result in teams missing their targets, and can affect the strategic goals of an organisation.

Getting the basics right is essential before making bigger changes. Using levers to review specific changes allows teams to pull back on the change rollout if they are struggling with the basics. Or plow ahead with new tools and processes to improve performance once they are comfortable with the basics.

Embed the Change in the Culture

Given the fact that remote working wasn’t something that most companies had time to manage well, it’s essential that the change itself is managed initially, allowing the company to plug any issues that occurred from it. Following this, organisations must invest in embedding this in the culture. Culture in itself isn’t something that can be changed easily. The culture is how people feel about the company, how they work together and how they communicate. The culture exists in all facets of the organisation, both internal and how external people view the organisation.

Organisations must create a strategic initiative focussed on how best to adopt flexible working in the organisation. This must be driven from the top of the organisation and have an executive aligned to its results. Employees must be given the opportunity to provide feedback on how this will work for them. The organisations leaders need to walk the walk and demonstrate how remote working will not negatively impact a person's career prospects. Leaders in the organisation should be encouraged to adopt flexible working arrangements.

Employees should understand all aspects of flexible working. The benefits, expectations, tax information and supports should be clearly documented and available to all employees. The employees must know where to get support or have their questions answered. Providing a very transparent process around this will make it much more accessible to employees and allow them to understand that this is a positive shift in how the organisation is going to be managed moving forward.

Organisations should review their mission and values, and ensure that the values echo the organisations move towards a more flexible structure. This shows the employees that the organisation is taking this seriously, and is not just a box-ticking exercise. In conclusion, organisations should not be afraid of this shift. Individual engagement comes from having clear goals and responsibility. By investing in building this engagement through flexible working conditions, employees will be motivated and will have the drive to perform well.

People aren’t scared of the actual change, it’s the transition that causes the pain. Handled poorly can have major negative implications on the organisation. Managed well can build an organisation where employees feel that the company has their back, and will essentially drive results.

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