The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed changed the world of work in many ways. One of the most significant shifts is the increase in work from home (WFH) arrangements. According to a survey by Harvard Business School Online, 81% of professionals either don’t want to go back to the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule going forward. Another survey by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum found that 66% of workers around the world want flexible working to become the norm. A third survey by McKinsey showed that 52% of respondents would like to work remotely at least three days a week.
These findings suggest that WFH is here to stay, at least for a large portion of the workforce. But what does this mean for leaders and managers? How can they adapt to this new reality and ensure that their teams are productive, engaged and satisfied?
Here are some tips for leading effectively in the prevalence of work from home:
- Communicate clearly and frequently. WFH can create challenges for communication, such as lack of face-to-face interaction, reduced social cues and increased reliance on technology. Leaders need to establish clear expectations, goals and feedback mechanisms for their remote workers. They also need to communicate regularly and proactively, using a variety of channels and formats, such as video calls, phone calls, emails, instant messages and online platforms.
- Trust and empower your employees. WFH can also create opportunities for autonomy, flexibility and creativity. Leaders need to trust their employees to manage their own time, tasks and performance. They also need to empower them to make decisions, solve problems and innovate. This can foster a sense of ownership, responsibility and motivation among remote workers.
- Support your employees’ well-being. WFH can have positive and negative effects on employees’ well-being, depending on their individual circumstances and preferences. Some may enjoy the benefits of saving time and money on commuting, having more control over their environment and schedule, and balancing work and personal life better. Others may struggle with isolation, distraction, stress and burnout. Leaders need to support their employees’ well-being by providing them with resources, tools and guidance. They also need to encourage them to take breaks, set boundaries, maintain social connections and seek help when needed.
- Foster a culture of collaboration and inclusion. WFH can pose challenges for teamwork, such as coordination difficulties, reduced visibility and potential conflicts. Leaders need to foster a culture of collaboration and inclusion among their remote workers. They need to create opportunities for team building, knowledge sharing and feedback exchange. They also need to ensure that everyone has equal access to information, resources and recognition.
WFH is not for everyone. Some employees may prefer or need to work in the office for various reasons, such as personal preference, nature of work or lack of suitable space or equipment at home. Leaders need to respect and accommodate these preferences and needs as much as possible. They also need to avoid creating a divide or bias between remote and onsite workers.
WFH is a new reality that leaders need to embrace and adapt to. Effective leaders who can adapt to this new way of working and lead their teams efficiently in a remote setting and help them thrive in challenging circumstances will have a competitive edge for many a year ahead.