When this Is all Over…
A week further on, and many of you will still be grappling with the sudden and unenviable task of managing a remote workforce, or displaced workforce as I prefer to call it. With each passing day, we move further away from the world we once knew and from the conventional ways of working that have shaped many of our lives. When COVID-19 came knocking, the world of work changed almost overnight, and we now face the very real probability that things will never go back to how they were.
Only, we have to go back, don’t we? When this is all over and some semblance of normal life resumes, economic engines will start revving up once again and employees will have to shake the dust off their work suits and head back to the office where they belong. But what then?
If managing a displaced workforce is hard, managing a returning workforce is likely to be even harder. Your employees will be like astronauts on the return trip to Earth; they have experienced something life changing and have seen the world from a whole new perspective. Adjusting to normal life will be tough – it may even prove impossible. Are you ready for that?
The chances are, you will have to make changes (yes, more changes), to the way your company operates. As we speak, remote working is becoming part of the new norm, but before you pat yourself on the back thinking you’ve finally nailed how to handle your team of workers-from-home, consider this: Pretty soon, you might be at square one again, this time figuring out how to manage the interplay between telecommuters and employees who have migrated back to the office.
There is a lot to consider, but the biggest question of all is this: wherever they are based, how are you going to help your employees to get as much done as possible and make up for lost time? Productivity is going to be more important than ever and you will need to work out a new a way to boost it, fast.
A two-year study led by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom suggests a combination of remote and office working might be the way to go. When James Liang, co-founder and CEO of China's largest travel agency, Ctrip, decided to consider offering his 16,000 workers the option of working from home, he turned to Bloom. Shanghai’s sky-high office rents and horrendous commute times made the case compelling, but he wanted assurance that productivity wouldn’t take a nosedive as a result.
The findings of Bloom’s research came as a surprise: the study’s telecommuters worked full shifts and often even more. They were also able to concentrate better at home and they took shorter breaks and less time off. As an added bonus, Ctrip’s savings on rent averaged out at almost $2,000 per employee. The downside? Many participants began to feel isolated and lonely, concluding that they would actually prefer to go into the office, at least some of the time.
If, like me, you’re not a huge fan of remote working as a concept, the Ctrip experiment might not appeal, but the fact is, there’s no going back – the ship has sailed. Yes, many employees will return to their desks, but a sizeable proportion may not – and even those who do may now demand greater flexibility.
However it plays out, the transition “back” to work will be a challenge, but now is the time to see the new-look workforce as an opportunity to start afresh, reinvigorate your teams and push productivity to new heights.
The spread of COVID-19 has not yet ended, but when it does, for many companies, that’s when the real hard work will begin. Solid leadership and sound management will prove essential over the weeks and months ahead, and as the complexities of where, when and how people work mount up, AI technologies will become indispensable in the quest to drive growth and keep operations running smoothly.
About the Author
Dr. Tommy Weir is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur dedicated to helping enterprises achieve market-defying results through advanced leadership science.
Combining his 20 years’ experience in CEO coaching and cutting-edge leadership research with data science methodologies, Dr. Tommy Weir now focuses on applying AI to leadership as CEO and co-founder of enaible Inc., which brings AI-powered leadership to companies who are searching for a better way to drive their employees’ productivity. Through enaible, Dr. Weir has built the world’s first Leadership AI Lab.
In addition to his work at enaible, Dr. Weir is a visiting scientist at MIT and prolific author. His books on leadership have earned numerous accolades, including #1 best-seller status on Amazon, First Finalist in the International Book Awards, and the #2 book in the Wall Street Journal’s Readers Poll. He holds a doctorate in strategic leadership from Regent University.
Follow Dr. Tommy on twitter @tommyweir
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