There is a strong business case for building a remote working culture; however, it is also wise to be aware of both the opportunities as well as the challenges and have strategies in place to address them.
- Access to talent – Working remotely offers us the ability to tap into the best talent anywhere. If we only offered in-person and on-site working options, then we would be precluded from accessing an extended talent pool because of location or affordability.
- Efficiency – For employers with an eye on the budget, remote working offers both time and cost savings. Time savings in that there is no or minimal commute and team members can connect faster online. One can achieve cost savings through reduced travel and lower operating costs.
- Flexibility – Remote working has enabled us to have flexibility that is not possible with exclusive in-person work environments. For many of our team members, the flexibility of our work environment has enabled some huge life changes for them, like moving to a more affordable location, to having more time with children or caregiving for others in the family. You cannot put a price on the value of flexibility; it is truly life-changing for many of our team.
Challenges and how we overcame them
- Loss of knowledge transfer – Active knowledge transfer from being together with a team and observing how skills are delivered is reduced, especially for junior team members who learn a lot simply from observing more senior members of the team. There are also less passive learning opportunities, like side conversations or quick discussions with colleagues in the office.
- How we address this: We host learning sessions, sharing examples of how we’ve delivered work for the client. We have strengths buddies, where we pair team members together to analyse and discuss the application of their strength in the work that they are doing. We are also recording videos to share knowledge on specific services and tools, so there is more on-demand material available for the team.
- Technology skills – Success is dependent on the client and partner level of tech savviness and technology, as well as their access to appropriate technology.
- How we address this: We invest in training and encourage the team to identify areas where they need more support or training.
- Building the culture – Building a good working environment, developing our culture, becomes more difficult when team members are always apart.
- How we address this: We invest in this through active demonstration of our values, embedding behaviours and activities in the way we work, from the way we treat the team like team birthday cards or a book club, to the way we deliver services to our clients and how we show up in the community. We also actively discuss what it means to “live the Pearl Consulting values” and where we see that happening.
For business leaders analyzing the opportunity of a remote working culture, these are my key recommendations:
- Infrastructure: Invest in the technology to make this not only possible, but enjoyable and easy.
- Knowledge and skills: Ensure that your systems and processes are set up to support the team with enough training, mentoring, and access to information to be able to do their work effectively and confidently.
- Team structure: Organise project teams so that they are a mix of individual, pairs and team allowing enough flexibility for different working styles and personal environments to be accommodated.
- Wellness: Over invest in connecting with and supporting your team and check in with them often on how they are on a personal level.
- Acknowledge our context: Acknowledge the stress of working in a pandemic, that these are difficult times, reduce the workload, and don’t expect there to be a direct transfer of everything that you used to do in-person directly to an on-line environment. Be reasonable and empathetic.
If you’d like to find out more about how we harness the opportunities of remote work to deliver greater client impact, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.