By Julia Langkraehr, a member of EO London and founder of Bold Clarity.
Employers and employees who have been working remotely for more than a year now are asking themselves the same question as widespread vaccination rolls out: How will things change when we can safely work in the same space once again?
The answer remains uncertain. Although one PwC survey published in January 2021 reported that 83% of employers said the remote shift was successful, 63% still think most employees should be in the office at least three days a week. Employees and employers both seem to have mixed opinions on the matter.
I personally have learned a lot in the past year of working from home, especially when it comes to how my work and life fit together. My company had a smooth transition to remote work, but I found that it blurred the lines between my work life and home life. Entrepreneurs like me often struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance even before the pandemic, but I saw this become even more true as my working hours grew longer at home. And yet, many other business leaders and employees have found remote work frees up more of their time.
More options to consider
When considering whether to return to the office, it’s important to remember that we have many more options now as we’ve all learned so much about how to work effectively from a distance. After all, companies have hired team members remotely, raised equity or VC funding via video calls only, and even participated in mergers and acquisitions without ever meeting in person.
Overall, such pandemic-related shifts have opened the door for many new possibilities when it comes to finding the right working model. The following considerations can help you reassess and rebuild an innovative working environment that helps you and your employees maintain effective work and achieve a healthy balance:
1. Break down geographic boundaries
Many founders and employees are discovering they don’t have to be in the office to reach their goals or lead teams effectively. For example, one of my clients worked from the Philippines, where he modified his schedule to deal with the time change as the majority of the company was based in the UK. During our most recent client session, he called in from a camper van using 4G and a personal hotspot. In cases like this, founders are realizing they can live as they please and still work effectively. For the right business, this could be a perfectly adequate working model.
What’s more, companies are hiring talent wherever they are located. This allows companies to access the right talent and boost employees’ quality of life. In this scenario, companies are using technology such as Zoom and Teams as well as creating the proper structure for daily huddles, weekly meetings, and cross-functional online get-togethers to keep the team connected and efficient.
2. Consider taking a hybrid approach
A hybrid work policy in which employees have the option to work remotely or from the office is an approach that can satisfy both those who appreciate new work-from-home environments and those who crave more time in the office.
Such an approach will require reevaluating how you use your space. For example, increasing the number of meeting rooms and creating more hotdesking, rather than assigned seating, could be beneficial. In this scenario, it’s also essential to implement a meeting pulse with dashboards, weekly reviews and real-time performance assessment. This way, employees can measure their performance in relation to their colleagues.
An effective meeting pulse might include quick daily huddles (about seven to 15 minutes) to keep the team connected; weekly meetings at the leadership level and by department where teams review numbers, priorities, and performance; monthly management meetings to determine month-to-month priorities; and quarterly leadership meetings to evaluate the previous 90 days and plan for the next quarter.
Along with these leadership and department meetings, directors, managers and team leads should hold one-on-one check-ins to make sure individual team members feel connected, supported and have the right tools and training.
3. Set a specific hybrid work schedule
Some companies are also creating hybrid work policies that dictate the specific number of days employees are required to be in the office. This approach could look different from company to company and depend on meeting schedules. For example, perhaps a team meets with clients three times a week and should be present in the office to hold those meetings face-to-face. Or, maybe you just want your people to connect in person at least once every two weeks, so you mandate two in-office days per month.
Whatever the structure, the key to making a hybrid approach work is accountability. Never has it been more important for directors and team leaders to keep their direct reports accountable — and to stay accountable themselves. When entrepreneurs surround themselves with a team that understands their roles and responsibilities, it’s easier to lead by example, delegate tasks, and keep everyone accountable for every function.
The pandemic has taught business leaders a lot about the value of agility and flexibility. Don’t lose sight of that importance as Covid-19 subsides. Look at what you’ve learned about yourself and your employees over the past year, and use that to reevaluate your current work policy. An alternative approach could help you create better work-life balance and a more productive business overall.
Julia Langkraehr is an experienced entrepreneur and Certified EOS Implementer. She works with business owners and their leadership teams to clarify their vision, get the entire company aligned, help them become more disciplined and accountable, and build healthy, cohesive leadership teams.