Disruptive Minds Lab

The End of the Plaza Empire and the Inevitable Rise of Telework in Business Life

Murat Ulker

Working from home, remote working or teleworking is not a new concept. Before the coronavirus epidemic, there was a telework evolution that coincided with the digital revolution in the business world. This evolution turned into a revolution with the onset of the Corona virus outbreak, which overnight, emptied offices all around the world, including Turkey, moving work into homes.

Nicholas Bloom, one of Stanford’s Economics Professors, was the first scientist to demonstrate evidence, as a result of his field experiment in 2015 published in a prestigious magazine, that telework improves business performance, reduces time spent on the road, puts an end to office politics, and improves a work-private life balance.

Ironically, Bloom switched to telework due to the corona virus epidemic and has been working from home with his 4-year-old son and spouse for around two months, teaching students in Stanford through technology.

So, did the real experiment change Bloom’s views on telework? If you read this article to the end, you will learn whether or not it changed and you will be very surprised at the result.

THE BIRTH OF TODAY’S OFFICES

First of all, everyone knows the history of digital transformation by heart, but let’s go back to the history of the “office world” to understand where the teleworking “evolution” that few people know about actually evolved.

The first office building in the world, in the sense we know, belonged to the East India Company, which was established in London in 1822 with the effect of the industrial revolution. As the name suggests, the East India Company was a company associated with the imperial time of Britain. (1) It is interesting, that after that time, all the world’s empires collapsed, then first offices, and later the plaza empires continued to dominate in every country, even to this day. The countries’ most magnificent skyscrapers were plazas. Never mind plazas, corporate identities with their silhouettes then became part of the identity of the country.

Turkey’s first office buildings constructed in the modern sense, were built by architect Gulio Mongeri, the Ziraat Bank General Directorate building in Ankara in 1925 and also in 1929 in Ankara by the same architect, the İş Bank General Directorate building.

WHEN DID OFFICES TURN TO INTO PLAZAS?

The word “office” was transformed into ‘plaza’ with business buildings built in the 1980s in the Maslak region of Istanbul. The first example of this was the Yapi Kredi Plaza buildings designed by famous architects, Haluk Tumay and Ayhan Böke.

 The reason for the transition from the word “office” to the world “plaza” was to change the perception of these buildings which increased their domination in the business life with the transforming jargon. In fact, we can see the desire to change the mental perception on this subject in the “studios” of artists. For some reason, artists don’t have an office. Really, “studios” are the offices of artists. However, as ‘office’ is commercial jargon, artists took their business linguistically to the next level with the word “studio”.

The transformative power of offices does not actually come from the buildings themselves or their size. Thanks to these working buildings, people started to spend more time with their colleagues and business environment, rather than their families. In other words, the time employees were together increased. The real transformation arose from this.

WHERE DID THE IDEA OF A HOLIDAY ORIGINATE?

In today’s societies, the main thing is to work, and having a holiday is something that is done when one is not working. In Roman times however, when they weren’t vacationing is when they worked. In other words, 2000 year ago it was normal to vacation which in Latin is ‘otium’ (leisure time), and when they could not vacation they were doing ‘negotium’ which is the negation of otium, meaning the nonexistence of leisure.

Today, when it comes to business life, there is “action integrated with the sector”. Negotium, on the other hand, was a word that felt like a vacation, that is, denial of pleasure. Do you know what is interesting? The Romans did not have offices for work. They had a mobile business life with stone tablets and stone chip pens just like our current situation. The famous writer, lawyer and politician of two thousand years ago, Pliny the Younger, wrote a letter to his friend Tacitus and suggested a great method for working life; … and, whilst I sat at my nets, you would have found me, not with boar spear or javelin, but pencil and tablet, by my side…So for the future, let me advise you, whenever you hunt, to take your tablets along with you, as well as your basket and bottle, for be assured you will find Minerva no less fond of traversing the hills than Diana. Farewell.’ (2)

In fact if one looks, in the three major religions, it is essential to work. In all primitive cultures, there is no perception of holidays like in our present day. However, due to both social relations and religious insights, holy day holidays began over time. For example, in Judaism, the week holiday is of religious origin and begins on Friday evening after the sun sets and ends on Saturday evening. The weekly holiday in Christianity is Sunday and is devoted to religious rituals. In the history of Islam, there is no concept of a week holiday. Essentially, Islam recommends that people work as long as they can. Even Friday is not a religious holiday. The Quran commands to stop shopping on Friday prayers; After praying, The Quran commands man to dispatch to earth to find one self’s livelihood from Allah’s grace. (3).

Today, except for some Islamic countries, Saturdays and Sundays are public holidays all over the world. The main thing is not to work on vacation, but to work while you actually work and reward yourself.

WHAT DO OFFICE EMPLOYEES FEEL?

How rewarded do the office or plaza employees of today feel? Presently, these feelings are measured by Human Resources departments and programs are implemented in order to give employees this feeling.

The history of these measurements and applications goes back to the early 1900s. With the industrial revolution, the scientific management era began. In order to use the factories efficiently and effectively, F. Taylor’s motion and time measurements were implemented, and then the same method was used to ensure high performance life in offices (4). In many studies conducted for this purpose, when employees were found to perform better when observed, open offices were born.

Although the open office concept still continues today, various open office concepts have been tried and tested over time. For example, in 1939, because open offices increase status separation open offices with kitchens and similar common areas emerged, eliminating these limits. Later, it went even further and it was switched to the ‘bureaulandschaft open office’ model born in Germany.

 In this model, the aim was to develop work flow and communication among the employees by using irregular geometry and organic circular models in the office layout. However, this method was criticized for increasing inefficiency in the office, and this time the problem was addressed by an understanding called “Action Office”, but such offices were still criticized for minimizing interaction, although employees were provided customizable space.

In the 1980s, employers switched to the model “Cubicle Farm” which divides the same area with small panels by focusing on costs. This model was also criticized for eliminating creativity and energetic work due to having a uniform appearance. After 2000s, due to the stress of living in big cities, the time spent commuting to and from work, and the intensity of increasing competition, efforts to increase the quality of the time spent at work emerged. Play areas, cafes, open kitchens, meditation rooms, plants that clean the air and increase oxygen are some of them (5).

Today, the discussion of “open office-closed office efficient working” still continues. While one side criticizes open offices for making noise and limited personal space, the other side insists that close proximities lead to hidden lameness. “So what do the employees think about this?” When we asked this, we came across a 2019 U.S Workplace Survey. According to this research, 77% of employees want to have both common areas and private areas where they can work and spend time on their own (6).

It’s exactly at this point that we need to draw attention to the shared offices, such as WeWork in the USA, and Kolektif House in Turkey, which have become the trend in the last 10 years, and in appearance have gained acceleration as a result of digitalization.

The main reason behind the spread of such offices is not digitalization, but the demand for both common and personal space in the offices of the employees. On the other hand, at the level of civilization we have reached 2000 years after the Romans; with the onset of the age of industrialization, communication and digitalization and the difficulty of living in big cities, it has become very important to work less and balance business and private lives.

More precisely because of the coronavirus outbreak, plazas had become important until they were empty. Employers started to build free dining halls, free snack bars, cafes, innovation rooms, and libraries, to make their new work attractive, and to increase the time spent in the workplace by providing home like comforts for the changing generations. But an annoying tendency for employers was beginning to emerge. Increasing costs at work and laziness brought by comfort! (7) The reason for this was the starting of the cessation of the “finishing the job” attitude as the main reason for existence.

Plazas have started to become unnecessary meetings in comfortable meeting rooms, producing jargon, producing less work, rather than helping to work quickly and efficiently. Many experts agree that if F. Taylor’s motion time studies were performed again now, the results would be quite annoying. The other thing they agree is that the majority of their employees can actually complete their work within two hours of work per day.

WHAT DO MEETINGS MEAN?

In 2014, Bain & Company’s research found that many executives spend more than 20 hours a week in meetings. But what is important is this: these meetings are ones that the manager, in terms of goals and profitability does not have to do! According to Perlow, Hadley and Eun’s articles “Stop the Meeting Madness” published in HBR in 2017 (8), stated before 1960, meetings took less than 10 hours a week for managers. This figure increased to 23 hours in 2017.

In the same article, the researchers gave their results in their survey with 182 senior managers. According to the results, 65% of the executives said that the meetings prevented them from finishing the work, 71% of the meetings were inefficient and ineffective, 64% prevented deepening in the thinking process, and 62% of them caused opportunities to escape and bring their teams together.

On the walls of Yildiz Holding, the principles about meetings by our founder Sabri Ulker are hung framed on the wall. Sabri Ulker was very sensitive about meeting efficiently.

We can briefly summarize his principles as follows: The meeting starts on time, adheres to the agenda, everyone says his/her opinion, the meeting is not interrupted for any reason, criticisms are productive, listening is important, clear decisions are made, it concludes at the specified time, and the date and agenda of the next meeting are determined. Recently, these rules were also been added as well: “who will take actions regarding the strategic decisions made at the meeting and until what date”. The important thing is that the meetings should not be held merely in order to have a meeting; meetings should be held to make a strategic decision or to solve a problem. There is no meeting to solve the problems that people face while doing their daily routine. Moreover, if meetings are approached in this manner, an efficient meeting will be held.

HOW DID TELE-WORKING AND THE TELE-WORKING GROUP ORIGINATE?

As you can see from the discussions above, the idea of teleworking is not a business that entered the business world along with the coronavirus. It was a system that was pursuing the purpose of producing faster, more efficient and less costly business over the years, and academics, which had already begun to create ground with their research, and which small entrepreneurs and freelancers had to spread with the “home- office” working order with the obligation of cost reduction.

The first scientific study on business results of the teleworking method was published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2015 (9). An interesting field experiment by Stanford Economics Professor Nicholas Bloom revealed that teleworking increased job performance due to reduced time spent in commute, bringing about the end office politics, and improving work-life balance.

Bloom did his field experiment on 1,000 employees of the Chinese travel company Ctrip, and found that the 9-month teleworker provided a 13% performance boost. This meant an extra 1 day more work for each employee and a 50% quitting rate. In the experiment, 4 days of telework and 1 day of work was absolutely necessary.

A very important point that Bloom emphasized as a result of the research is that 500 of the 1000 employees who participated in the research volunteered for telework. 50% of these 500 employees wanted to return to work in the office after 9 months. This was because they stated that they were working inefficiently and that their mental health was impaired.

Disruptive Working Groups based on volunteering are very common in Yildiz Holding. The purpose of these groups is to produce ideas that will permanently change the way of doing business in order to adapt the company to a new situation in a short time and to inform the top management about the feasibility of these projects by turning them into projects.

In the early days of the coronavirus epidemic, we created a global working group based on volunteerism to adapt all of our companies under the umbrella of the Holding. With the call of this group, which we call the Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group, 82 project ideas came from our companies all over the world. These ideas were evaluated by the Working Group in 3 Workshop group sessions. 66 ideas were directly related to telework, 9 of them were left as draft ideas. The remaining 57 ideas were combined and (Digital Competence and Communication 15, Business Development and Management 22, Culture and Growth 7) were reduced to the idea of 44 projects. Then all project proposals were graded by the Working Group. What was interesting here was that the Working Group carried out all its works through tele-working.

Almost all of the projects that reached Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group are parallel to the results of academic and applied research on Tele-Working, which we mentioned in this article. For example, 6 of them coincide with Bloom’s findings as there are projects aimed at increasing motivation of remote workers and protecting their mental health. These projects are:

Ezgi Dogan (pladis Ulker); Organizing socializing video-meetings to make remote employees feel a part of the office. Gul Senay (Sok Marketler); Creating and filling a Digital Event Calendar to keep your work motivation alive. Rasit Cebi (Bizim Toptan); Developing home office software to create work and life balance. Amy Zuckerman (Godiva); Developing the Wellness App to keep employees constantly active. Annie Young Scrivner (Godiva); Developing the Beauty App. Caroline Le Roch (Godiva); Developing the entertaining and rewarding online social gaming application in the areas of how work is done and performance improvement with the aim of increasing employee engagement. The following project proposals can also be seen as motivational projects through better communication

Mahmut Sami Mulayim (Onem Gida); Creating a digital library to meet the information needs of the employees. Onur Moralar (g2mEksper); Using AR to make video calls more authentic. Mehmet Fatih Devrim (CCC); Establishing a VR system to visit factories. Carlos Canals (pladis NA & Canada); Implementing cyber store check for a full inventory of locations our products are available to craft better plans (SOYA). This may be done by developing Vispera to use at different sales regions and channels. Deniz Teymur (g2mEksper); Virtual office and customer visits. Similarly, the project proposal of Roza Altin (Onem Gida) includes improvement of the common areas and their technological equipment, and the selection and use of suitable hardware and software for task management in order to support working from home of the central office. In addition, Roza Altin and Ozge Demirkol Mete (g2mEksper) recommend implementing a cultural exchange program so that different generations can work together from home as well as continuing cultural exchange with formal- distance education programs.

According to a large-scale study conducted by Gallup in 2012, it was found that the tendency of employees to spend 4 of 5 days a week to telework is increasing (10). In the same research, it was revealed that if a company of 500 people was tele-working for 3 days a week, it would save 3 thousand dollars per employee per year and 8 thousand dollars per employee if the attachment increased to 15%.

There are also many Gallup studies showing that telework has contributed to environmental sustainability. For example, in 2015, Xerox reported that home workers used 92 million miles less, which produced 41,000 tons less carbon dioxide. Likewise, in the Sun Microsystems OpenWork program, when 24,000 people started working from home, 32,000 tons of carbon dioxide was prevented from being released into the air.

One of the suggestions for Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group belongs to Sanne Wolters (pladis Europe). The proposal includes analyzing the best practices in the world, and taking the best aspects of these practices that fit Yildiz Holding. As can be seen from the Gallup research, many companies have started telework. Examining these projects will reduce the number of errors made.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the corona virus epidemic turned into a revolution in the business world, and almost overnight it evacuated the offices all over the world and carried them to our homes. According to the Public Opinion Survey conducted by Kadir Has University, 76% of the society is not going to work because of Covid-19. But it is not clear whether these individuals work from home.

On the questionnaire created by the website Webrazzi on Twitter, 14.942 people voted. According to this survey, the rate of home workers is 44%. There is no doubt that this result is not a result that can be generalized because the samples and variables are not controlled. But we know that many large and small companies have been moving to a work from home arrangement for two months.

At this point, we can return to Professor Bloom who has been working with his 4-year- old son and family for two months. Let us include whether Bloom’s thoughts on working from home have changed. In fact, it has not changed and instead has become clearer (11). According to Bloom, working from home now that we are staying at home due to coronavirus differs in four ways from working from home in normal times:

1) Children / family 2) Workplace constraints 3) Privacy 4) Volunteering.

Therefore, the results of the corona virus period cannot be compared with the results of work from home in a normal period. Bloom emphasizes that under normal circumstances, other members of the family would be at school or work, so the performance of the employee would increase. Bloom expresses that it is essential to work from home by evaluating the employee’s own preferences and conditions in order to get full results from telework. Bloom needs to organize a room as an “office” in order to ensure work efficiency. He underlines that working in the living room, in front of the TV, in the corner on the shore is not “telework”. According to Bloom, office work is a must once a week. Because it is not possible to have creativity and innovation without face to face contact. The employee should go to the workplace and take on his workplace identity for one day and reveal his personal chemistry with his personal communication experience.

WHY WAS TELE-WORK ADOPTED?

As a result, if these conditions are met, and the business invests in information technologies, employees on the road will prefer the telework option to reduce costs and increase performance. Another issue that Bloom emphasized especially for success is the establishment of a regular control mechanism of the managers’ home working teams. Meanwhile, Bloom also states that changes are required in laws and regulations in order to implement the telework system more efficiently and in all sectors. Just as Bloom emphasized the indispensability of working from home, his arrangement of the home and the office environment and office tools associated with it is very important in home working projects.

WHAT DO YILDIZ HOLDING EMPLOYEES WANT TO DO?

Many projects were proposed to Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group, suggesting the same subject. These project proposals can be summarized as follows:

Isil Buk (Bizim Toptan), Yasemin Dogan (Sok Marketler), Omer Karadaban (g2mEksper), Doga Unay (pladis) and Rasit Cebi (Bizim Toptan) evaluating the suitability of the home environment at home to obtain the desired efficiency; to bring the office environment and tools in line with the telework type of the office when it comes to the office work of the same person, and to improve efficiency and cost savings while doing this.

The projects that come to Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group are quite satisfactory in the title of regular checking of the teams by the manager mentioned by Professor Bloom:

Yahya Ulker (Yildiz Holding), Ezgi Dogan (pladis Ulker); Daily, weekly, monthly monitoring with Asana and creative KPIs. Hamide Guven Sen; (Bizim Toptan) Establishing a performance system by producing and evaluating daily, weekly monthly data. Gokce İcer (Bizim Toptan), Utkan Mentes (Most Teknoloji) and Ozge Demirkol Mete (g2mEksper); Making this system’s special software for Yildiz Holding. Huriye Akcetin (pladis Global); Creating a talent pool from different countries to support recruitment difficulties for some roles. Additionally forming a global expert pool within specific areas for consulting services wherever needed. Onder Sami Atay (CCC); Developing project based hourly contracted external workforce and its performance system. Rasit Cebi (Bizim Toptan), Mustafa Kabakci; Developing the “solution to frequently asked questions” App for daily routines, and especially IT problems within the company. We still do not have academic studies that reveal the details of the large home telework period of the past two months and their impact on employees. We only have a questionnaire which has a “task management” conducted by Slack, App with 2877 employees over the internet (12).

According to Slack’s survey, inadequate process management and inadequate communication, lack of belonging, loneliness and sense of isolation are factors that reduce efficiency in telework. Home workers find communication through technology very tiring. However, the values increase as a result of the first month. 60% of those who are still more experienced state that they perform better. The important conclusion from Slack’s research is that if there is trust between the organization and the employee, if the organization has clearly stated its objectives, if the employee can see his/her place in the whole of his work, if the organization establishes communication and cooperation with the help of correct and practical technology and frees the employee from the feeling of isolation working order increases productivity by producing job satisfaction. At this point, we can say that the following project proposals that reached Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Working Group are very accurate in terms of showing the entire work, providing communication and cooperation, being fast working and contributing to increasing efficiency by providing job satisfaction:

Selcuk Guler (CCC); from raw material to transportation, all operations are displayed on a screen for remote monitoring. Altug Akbay (pladis TR sales); Developing software that involves planning and approving the activity and campaign processes without coming together using artificial data analysis and application to robotic processes. Abdulbaki Keskin (Yildiz Holding); Establishing a daily meeting organizing system for faster, more organized meetings and follow up and to make faster decisions and to combine this with task management systems. Ibrahim Yamac (CCC); Remote signature system. Yusuf Levent (pladis – Horizon); Remote approval system to reduce paper waste, save time and record everything. Mehmet Fatih Devrim (CCC); Creating a remote work schedule to see who works where and when. Recep Ali Yilmaz (Bizim Toptan); Moving the internal phones to Teams to get a telephone connection from outside and to diversify the input sources of the meeting. Sercan Guleryuz (Horizon); Develop real-time field information software from field representatives remotely. Serhat Yunsuroglu (Onem Gida); Remote factory management system development Some of the project proposals received by Yildiz Holding Tele-Working Disruption Group are project proposals that are specific to Yildiz Holding and will be differentiated by addressing its different aspects:

Adem Yilmaz Yavuz (Yildiz Holding); Develop a platform that will apply GOYA to work remotely. Amy Zuckerman (Godiva); Developing the translation App that provides subtitles according to the language you speak.In order to realize the following 3 projects, which are still in draft concept, the proposal owners should be informed to develop their suggestions and given the necessary support:

Aylin Kadirdag (CEO Office); Connected Workplace, Zafer Ucar (pladis); Remote Sales, Enes Onder / Omer Beddur (Biskot Karaman); Performance Management / Risk Prevention

Because of the development history of the offices, the advantages of digitalization, the difficulties of living in big cities and desire to spend more time on one’s self and their families and the positive results of the teleworking experience caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, it is irrepressible that tele-working will grow in all sectors. Those who will successfully experience this transformation are those who will know themselves well and establish their own system. Because there is no teleworking game plan suitable for all companies. Companies need to succeed by creating the plan that suits them.

RESULT

In conclusion, our suggestions for the immediate implementation of the above projects are as follows:

1. In order to obtain efficiency from the tele-working method, firstly an office should be established in the house with material, technical equipment and support from the company.

2. The teleworker must have at least 1 day work in the company office; this working day should be fixed and the services such as the central office dining room and service should be adapted. Teleworkers should not take advantage of flexible working hours. Regular office attendance of employees with signature authority and representation rights is important.

3. Priority should be given to the teleworking staff’s work processes, technology and software supports that enable them to see the whole, these software should be extremely simple, technological problems and complexities should not be an obstacle. It should not be forgotten that the Teams application is currently widely-used throughout Yildiz Holding.

4. Tele- daily, weekly and monthly performance management application should be adapted for employees, and KPIs should be provided through this application. Safety and convenience features should be the most important issues in the applications to be used.

5. Supporting the teleworker to show the entire work, providing communication and cooperation, and enabling them to work fast are the factors that increase the satisfaction of the teleworker in business life. These projects should be put into operation simultaneously. Creation of global talent / expert pools may help recruitment activities and support kowledge

6. Another important issue is the training, motivation and mental state of the teleworker and their regular follow-up. These applications should be implemented as soon as possible. At Yildiz Holding, there is now an application that asks the employees “how are you” every day with the help of AI. This application will be expanded again with the help of AI.

7. When developing all systems, processes, applications, utilizing artificial intelligence analysis and bots (robotic processes) should be the primary principle.

8. The fact that Tele-Work is a part of our way of doing business permanently depends on the quality of leadership that is put forward when all projects are implemented and afterwards. Leaders should be visible, clear, communicate well, and the barriers in the middle should be eliminated with the HR department in order to keep the home employee connected with the company. The draft Leadership and Implementation System in Remote Work presented by us to the Tele-Work DisruptionGroup (Ege Bakis) will be the guide (Annex1).

Note: I would like to thank all of my colleagues, especially Altan Sekmen and Ali Atif Bir, who helped me and participated in Yildiz Holding Tele-Work Disruption Group and enriched this work with their contributions.

 

Bibliography

1.     Nixey, Catherine. “Death of Office.” The Economist, 5 May 2020.

2.     Pliny the Younger, Genc Plinius’un Mektuplari (The Letters of Pliny the Younger), Trans. Levent Keskin (Latin), Dogu Batim Pub., 2018; “LETTERS OF PLINY: IV — To CORNELIUS TACITUS.” Letters of Pliny, by Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, www.gutenberg.org/files/2811/2811-h/2811-h.htm#link2H_4_0065.

3.     İslam Anskilopedisi 15’inci cilt (3. Islamic Encyclopedia Volume 15), 1997, p.132-134.

4.     Koroglu, Veli, ‘Stratejik Yonetim Acisindan Taylorizm Prensiplerinin Zamanimiza Yansimalari (Reflections of the Principles of Taylorism in Our Time in Terms of Strategic Management) Cag University Journal of Social Sciences, C.14 pg. 1.

5.     Cagnol, R. “A Brief History of the Office.” Deskmag, www.deskmag.com/en/a- brief-history-of-the-workspace-coworking-Chicago-Architecture.

6.     U.S Workplace Survey, Gensler Research Institute, 2019 (https://www.gensler.com/uploads/document/614/file/Gensler-US- Workplace-Survey-2019.pdf).

7.     Maier, Corinne, and David Watson. Hello Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn’t Pay. Orion Books, 2005.

8.     Perlow, Leslie A., et al. “Stop the Meeting Madness.” Harvard Business Review, 26 June 2017, hbr.org/2017/07/stop-the-meeting-madness.

9.     Bloom, Nicholas, et. al. ‘Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Feb. 2015.

10.     Hickman, Adam, and Jennifer Robison, ‘Is Working Remotely Effective?, Gallup Research Says Yes’, 24 Jan 2020.

11.     Gorlick, Adam, ‘The Productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of Covid’, Stanford News, March 30, 2020.

12.     Slack, ‘Remote Work in the age of Covid19’, April 21, 2020.

 

Annex 1

Remote Working: Trust, collaboration, technology. Just requires more discipline.

1.     Leaders

All leaders (from the CEO to the frontline manager) are key to succeed for this important transformation. They should start by reviewing and embracing change management practices.

·        Must evolve their strategies for managing both people and technology in a distributed workforce.

·        Double down on good leadership skills including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members’ individual and collective strengths.

·        The most successful remote managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of overcommunicating

·        Visibility

o  CEO/Top Leader of every organization needs to be much more visible right now — through video conferencing or taped recordings — to give people confidence, calm them down, and be healers- or hope-givers-in- chief

o  Be creative, learn new ways to communicate and be visible to your entire team- leverage technology

o  Virtual town hall meetings (monthly) where top managers give supportive messages and answers questions from employees is very helpful.

o  Leaders should be authentic rather than formal during these sessions.

·        Clarity

o  Without the clear boundaries that office life provides, the go-getters on your team may have workdays that never end, setting themselves up for exhaustion and resentment.

* Share new and measurable metrics of success

* Clarify and re-clarify goals and roles

* Establish a shared vision at the outset by engaging team members in conversation around the following issues:

« What are the overall goals of the business and how can each team member contribute?

« What is the role of each team member and the team as a whole?

« What are their accountabilities to each other and to the organization?

« How (and how often) do they want and need to communicate with each other?

·        Communication

* Miscommunication will almost certainly be more common among remote colleagues than in a traditional office

« Team launch to jump-start this new way of working.

Figure out together with the team: How often should we communicate? Should it be video, phone, or Slack/Jive/Yammer. If you’re not using one of those social media systems, should you?

What’s the best way for us to work together?

« Help people understand how to do remote work and give them confidence that it will work

« Check in frequently and regularly

« During your remote meetings make sure to ask: What have you done? What are you working on? Where do you need help?

* How to run virtual meetings:

« Have some explicit ground rules-No cell phones, no multitasking

« Don’t go straight to your agenda items, spend the first six to seven minutes of a meeting checking in.. Focus on newcomers, lowest level employees and people who speak less.

« Follow up your meeting points with emails, messages

·        Connection

* People suddenly working from home are likely to feel disconnected and lonely, which lowers productivity and engagement

« How does working from home affect psychological health? What

can employers do to make sure that people are staying focused, committed, and happy?

« Coach, exercise & contact. Managers must actively work on it. Ensure that no members feel like they have less access to you than others.

* In a remote environment, frequency of contact cannot go down. If you’re used to having meetings, continue to do so. In fact, contact should probably go up for the whole team and its members.

« Newer employees, those working on critical projects, and people who need more contact will require extra one-on-ones.

« Some employees may prefer email, some texts, some phone calls, and others video calls. If you don’t invest the effort to meet them where they are and speak their language, then we miss out on opportunities to connect with employees on a deeper level

« Make time for personal interaction—it is more important than ever

« Use social media to enable employees to socialize. One simple and popular option is a “Watercooler Slack channel” where employees can trade jokes, gifs, and family photos

« Don’t forget fun- happy hours, team lunch, coffee breaks

« Encourage employees to give you feedback regarding your approach to remote working

2.     Tools / Processes

Digital communication enables remote work, but it creates a whole set of new problems

o  a sense of emotional and psychological detachment that builds up over

time

o  the greater the virtual distance, the higher the negative impact on the team in terms of innovation effectiveness, trust, work satisfaction, role and goal clarity, and project success.

·        Develop an open channel for communication in a technology platform

o  Give remote team members a “meeting place” where they can go to socialize. Yammer for water-cooler conversations; for big announcements; and to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and promotions. Slack is another popular communication tool among remote teams.

o   It’s also beneficial for remote teams to meet face to face on occasion.

o  Employee volunteering is another effective way to boost engagement and morale. They can conduct virtual charity auctions or fundraise among themselves for events in the community,

·        Establish a sharing platform

Build a community of fully remote employees to share experiences and learn from each other.

o  Outcome of this platform can be a resource for a skills training on how to work in distributed/virtual teams across office sites.

o  This community partners with different departments, so they work with IT to get access to the tech tools they needed, along with virtual leadership skills training

o  Works with HR to help the company adapt its people processes to better align with its remote workforce. This includes partnering with HR around career pathing and ensuring that manager training included how to work with direct reports from afar

o  Provides insights to top executive team about the future of work

·        Update Your Performance Management:

You can’t see what people are doing. But equip them in the right ways, give them the tasks, check on them like you’ve always done, and hope they produce in the ways you want them to

o  Managers of remote employees adhere to the following guidelines when setting a performance process:

« Performance review will have to be outcome-based

« Clearly communicate to team members who will be held accountable for what.

« Agree on a timetable for every project and assignment.

« Avoid blame if a deadline is missed or another issue arises

o  Objective setting: When setting and monitoring performance, focus on the results and KPIs, not activity

*  Monitoring: Provide appropriate and regular feedback to remote employees

« Monitor progress by scheduling regular check-ins

« Plan appropriate time for one-one sessions with each of your DR’s.

« Be specific about your feedback

« Be proactive about addressing performance issues, set up a regular feedback one-one sessions until performance is improved

«Appreciation: There are plenty of ways you could recognize remote employees’ achievements:

« Take the time to acknowledge and thank them, in a public way (e.g. via your Zoom /Slack channel) for peers see that you appreciate them too.

« Award a gift card – this has the advantage that you can send it electronically.

« Send a physical note or card to let a remote employee know how much you appreciate their work beyond the virtual boundaries.

« Give employees a bonus or cash award. If your budget allows for it, this will always be appreciated and can really motivate employees to continue doing a great job.

3.     HR’s Role

HR is responsible for transformational work into the new office landscape together with the leaders

* Internal communications efforts should be revisited and transformed to all online

* Ensure legislative measures are done properly

* Re-deployment of all core HR processes (Performance management, HRP, Manager Effectiveness survey, Engagement survey, coaching etc)– Necessary updates reflecting the remote working should be made

* Assessment tools regarding leadership competencies upgraded

* Training programs converted to all online

* Guidelines should be prepared for leaders and employees to prepare for remote working

* “Remote Working Training” for managers is essential

* Employee assistance support may be required during this time- get prepared for it

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