With the outbreak of the corona virus, working from home has become a strategic competence.
Competence, is knowledge, skill and ability.
Working from home (WFH) is not as simple as it appears, it is a competence that requires tools and infrastructure to enable its ability.
At its core, are the following must-haves;
Communication Tools: Phone/Messaging App
A Dedicated Workplace
A Work Schedule
Behavioural Competencies such as communication skills, self-motivation and self-control.
The easiest components for organisations to tackle are tools. Firms can provide a laptop, internet and messaging apps. However, the real issues will lie in the infrastructure and behavioural challenges.
Many lower ranked will not have access constant power supply and may not have dedicated work places in their homes. Without dedicated workplaces distractions abound. Thus, remote work cannot occur in their homes as they still require leaving their homes to venues where work can occur.
Attitudes to work will be the biggest challenge. WFH requires a different mindset; discipline, self-motivation, self- control and great communication skills. Integrity, reliability and dependability will be critical success factors. These are not competencies that can be acquired overnight.
So what can we do? First thing is to assess your organisation and its readiness for remote work. Is it an option? If you won’t have any work to do due to low business, then remote may only be a solution for a portion of your workforce and not company-wide.
If there’s a good chance, remote work can occur then by all means provide the tools required for remote work. A crucial element is to have discussions that establish that employees have determined their dedicated work areas and daily routine. Ensure, it is clear that work times are still the same, working from home is not always as flexible as people think, what is different is the location of work, meetings are still booked, and work is pretty much as usual. When I visited my friend in the UK who was working from home, in the 2 hours I was there she did not get up her work desk and I watched her attend 2 skype meetings.
Next step if this is entirely new to your business is to develop a policy and guidelines around expected behaviour and outcomes. WFH cannot succeed without the right attitude to work. Do not assume everyone can work from home just because it’s required. I have seen a staff go AWOL once a WFH schedule was adopted. I have also had a staff tell me outright that he cannot work from home.
As welcome as it may seem, the winners will be firms who whose staff already have developed the WFH competency in terms of tools, infrastructure and behaviour. A good number of the larger firms and multinationals have already kicked into remote working mode. Sadly, a good number of businesses, especially small businesses will experience temporary shut-down or lay-offs because WFH implementation isn’t a viable solution and/or requires competence which currently does not exist and cannot be quickly acquired.
All the best, as we navigate new ways of working.