Covid-19 has catapulted us into a strange new world of work. Many of your people are working from home. The initial novelty is wearing off. Business and team leaders wrestle with how to lead and motivate. People leaders wonder how to support people, manage risk and continue learning and development.
A New Reality Presents
Those of us thrust into remote work wrestle with family boundaries, find our daily routines upside down, and discover that sustained self-motivation is tricky indeed. We are confronted with rethinking how home can operate as a workplace. How do we maintain our team connections? How do we engage effectively through virtual meetings? Do we even want to continue to work like this?
Remote work has been creeping up on us with a boom in digital tools. The current crisis has accelerated the transition. As the cost savings to business become clear, remote work is becoming an inevitability. There are significant benefits. Office costs will fall, commuting time and frustration has collapsed, and the call for “work-life balance” has been answered. We are sorting through a messy transition. We are heading into the unknown.
The Risks of Remote Work
We are still coming to terms with the risks. Four present clearly:
- Most homes are not designed for remote work. We work in bedrooms, try to focus amidst family activities, and negotiate the temptations of the kitchen and Netflix.
- Our daily rhythms and transitions are upended. One can get lost in the dramas of home life and challenged relationships or sit for hours in front of a screen. Maintaining sleep, exercise, relaxation and work rhythms is even more testing. The discrete breaks of daily commutes, meetings, coffee breaks and office activity are no more.
- The emotional connection, support and motivation provided by our work community has been replaced by virtual calls. Many feel isolated and lonely. The buzz of the human marketplace cannot be replaced by digital interaction. A sense of meaning will be hard to sustain without the messy physicality of human interaction.
- The natural interactions of leadership, teaming and coaching as we move in and out of work tasks, have gone. Many remote workers will end up confused, overloaded or misguided. Leaders face deep questions as to how well they are providing direction, support and autonomy. Some may overperform and fatigue. Others may disengage and lose themselves in distractions – or worse.
Immediate challenges for Leadership
- What is the role of the business in helping people create productive workspaces at home?
- What should leaders do to make sure people are safe, healthy and well?
- What is the responsibility of leaders to support productive and resilient life rhythms?
- How do we train people for effective virtual presentation, empathy and influence?
- How do we rebuild leadership, teaming and coaching in virtual teams?
- What will training look like in a virtual and digital environment?
Opening up a laptop at home is the easy part. The hard part will be finding our way through these six questions. As the acute phase of Covid-19 settles, people leaders will need to make time to address and meet these challenges. It is going to be an interesting and creative advance into novelty.
We share offer some early thoughts and support here: