Telecommuting or remote working has been growing phenomenon and the flexibility it offers has made it a priority item on the wish lists of many employees. Now, however, COVID-19 fears are enforcing remote working, often in home environments that are not conducive to effective and productive working. The ability of people to adapt—to get on with it, feel valued, be productive, and succeedrequires a work culture that reaches into remote environments, is supportive, empathetic, inclusive, collaborative, proactive and encourages initiative. 

Work culture – at home?

Workplace culture is typically defined by a number of factorsorganizational structures and management practices; employee lifecycle processes (from recruitment to performance management and work/life balance concepts); company philosophies and policies; the type of people that are employed in a business and the way they interact; the company’s mission, vision and values; and—importantly—workplace environment. 

The new work environment is home and online. Interaction is via collaboration tools. How can companies make this work? 

Accenture has a global workforce. We’ve been relying on a modern, remote and collaborative workplace to empower our employees wherever they may be working for 20 years now. Over that time, we’ve learned a lot about remote working. How to ensure it is adopted successfully and what pitfalls you’ll need to sidestep.  

The first, most critical element is to ensure business continuity. The show must go on. But remote working means a lot of change for employees. Key elements of the work culture thus need to adapt too. It requires a multi-facetted effort—one that reaches across the tools and technology that now need to be used to communication policies, ways of interacting and measuring performance. 

Personal and business adaptation

Employees will need to get to grips with new technology and new ways of working in a home environment where they may need to deal with a number of distractions and conflicting responsibilities—children home from school, a working spouse, and other elements. Alongside the personal adjustments, their working style—habits and behaviors—will need to adapt.  

Retaining or adapting a personal work structure and routine will be important for productivity, but it will be as vital to ensure interaction and collaboration of both a social and work nature. How can the business adapt its culture to support these factors? 

The employee experience can be supported by putting the right policies, practices and expectations in place. 

Here are some excerpts from Stephen Tong of Avanade, an Accenture company. 

  • Set expectations around remote working practices, even on a short-term or “exceptional circumstance” basis. This would include defining which tools and platforms to use, how to use them and defining practices that are necessary for your business continuity (taking into account your workplace maturity). 
  • To assist employees that are not used to working from home, consider creating a support network, for example, assigning a remote working champion per business unit to help colleagues understand how best to work from home within the context of their role. 
  • As home working environments opens the door to personal devices and applications being used to distribute corporate assets and information, security risks increase. Ensure you have updated (and enforced) your data security and corporate policies to address the use of personal devices for business purposes. It comes back to being prepared – your employees need guidance and advice ahead of time.  
  • Your communication and collaboration practices will be critical. As a leader, it falls on you to act as a role model for the type of remote worker that you want your employees to be. And there are a few steps you can take to ensure you’re effectively espousing the virtues of a virtual workplace: 
      • Schedule regular check-ins with your team and ensure everyone can openly and honestly share successes and challenges. Encourage one-on-one coaching and establish a support network or mentoring system for your employees.  
      • Make sure your leadership team recognizes success stories – at both a team and individual level. Send emails and call out contributors in calls.  
      • Set clear priorities and expectations of roles within your teams. Assign clear ownership, deliverables and timelines, but place trust in your employees that once work targets are set, they’ll have the flexibility to operate in the way that suits them best.  

The essence of adaptability  

Introduce a democratic and proactive culture as part of your remote working initiatives. Encourage employees to challenge the status quo and suggest ways of doing things differently. Ask your team to come up with ways to enhance communication, conduct regular “team retrospectives” to reflect on what can be improved. Most of all, build a culture that welcomes change. 

Join me in my next series as I look at the role of leadership in defining culture—especially in this difficult time. 

Leadership plays a defining role in creating corporate culture. It’s a topic I feel requires some focus. My next series of posts will be on Human Resilience. It is all about the type of leadership that the current, very exceptional business setting calls for—COVID-19 has changed the way we live and work already, with far-reaching impact; leading with compassion and caring for our workforces and communities is more essential than ever. But what do our employees need from us now?  

In my next series of posts, I look at the research, identify key needs—and what leaders today can do to meet them. 

For more on creating an Elastic Digital Workforce click here. If you need assistance ramping up your COVID-19 workforce response, please get in touch with me—Accenture has a rapid enablement offering that can help your organization become more productive rapidly. 

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