During the Covid pandemic, the SensĂ©e team was often called on to advise on the sudden switch to working from home. An often-heard management comment on the challenges of working from home (WFH) sounded like this:
âOur biggest challenge is replicating everything we do for our people in the office when they are now working from home or in a hybrid mix of the home and office.â
This problem has persisted long after the pandemic, because companies have continued to use WFH or hybrid. Office occupancy in London in September 2023 was 32.9% – this is after the quiet holiday season.
It is clear that many companies have now permanently embraced hybrid work or WFH to the extent that commercial landlords must now be considering what they can do with all these empty office buildings.
But as so many corporate leaders have found, working from home is about so much more than just working from home.
Think about all the processes that have traditionally been performed in-person in the officeâŠ recruitment and interviews, onboarding, training and career development, communications, scheduling shifts, general management oversight and task prioritisation.
All this now needs to be performed remotely.
This can be a shock for many managers, especially those familiar with âmanagement by walking aboutâ – the idea of taking a stroll to check on things seems archaic with a remote or hybrid team.
Security is another issue that needs to be reconsidered. When all processes were performed in a single location by people who had to pass a secure entrance then security wasnât all that difficult. Build a firewall around the network and little else was needed.
If you now have people scattered all over the place accessing the system, especially if that involves customerâs data, then you need to rethink security protocols, encryption, and the entire culture of security. How does everyone become aware of what is and what isnât a security risk?
One change that becomes essential with remote teams is the concept of managing people by tasks or delivery. You are not supervising the people in person so you can no longer make any assumptions about who is busy or not or who is late and not putting in the required effort.
Now you need to create some defined standards around a ânormalâ level of activity. Letâs say the number of customers served as an example. If the average is ten thenÂ itâs not alarming to see that some of the team are serving 12 an hour and some are serving 8. However, if a team member is only managing to serve 5 customers each hour then the manager may need to step in to investigate.
It is also important for people to feel connected throughout the day. Most people that work in a team want to feel that connection, rather than just having a daily team talk on Zoom and then being allowed to work alone for the rest of the day – this can be extremely isolating.
It is likely that you will require a software platform to manage this – a virtual office in some form. We have our own tools inside SensĂ©e that allow our teams to create virtual meetings, work together, and even replicate actions like holding a hand in the air because the user wants to talk to a supervisor.
When companies were forced to rapidly adopt WFH, because of the pandemic, some introduced a few questionable practices. Many managers thought that it would be acceptable to watch employees at work via their webcam. Research in Fortune magazine shows that most managers think this can boost productivity. But as this BBC article shows, it often backfires on employers as it feels more like spying on someone in their own home, rather than managing them.Â
The reality is that you need a change in management mindset to manage a WFH or hybrid team. You cannot simply transplant all office-based functions into the WFH environment, however most processes can work when you plan for them.
SensĂ©e recruits, onboards, and manages all our team remotely. We know it works. The difficulty comes if you sound like the manager quoted at the start of this article âwe are struggling to replicate everything we do in the officeâŠâÂ
You donât need to reinvent all those office-based processes. Feel free to reimagine how work can be designed if there is no expectation of an office being in the equation.