- Published: Friday, November 06, 2020 15:05
By David Haedtler, Principal
When the pandemic first hit, your company, like most companies, may have been blindsided. Sure, you had what you thought were robust Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans. But the assumption was that if your facility was no longer usable, you’d simply get your people set up in a different facility. No one ever imagined that practically overnight you’d have to transition to an all-remote or nearly-all-remote distributed workforce.
But somehow you did it. And now, many months later, work from home (WFH) has not gone away. In fact, it’s likely here to stay in one form or another for quite some time.
So how is WFH working for your organization?
How has WFH impacted your team members’ morale? How are your managers doing supporting a remote workforce? How is productivity? What about all the technology issues, from connectivity to security and everything in between?
Just as importantly, how are you assessing all of this? Are you just going on gut and hearsay, or have you instituted a formal process for gathering feedback from everyone involved?
What we’re seeing in the field is that many companies are afraid to ask the hard questions regarding how well WFH is actually working for them. They’re concerned that they won’t like the answers…and then what? But the reality is, if you don’t ask the questions and therefore don’t get the answers, you’ll eventually be faced with an even bigger “then what.” You’ll muddle on ahead thinking that everything is fine, while whatever problems exist fester and grow worse.
What can possibly be going wrong?
There are many challenges associated with having a workforce that was abruptly forced to work from home, whether or not working from home was convenient or desirable for either them or your company. From my standpoint, the impact of these challenges primarily falls into one of three categories: Loss of productivity, low morale (and yes, low morale can cause productivity to drop in and of itself) and security risks.
When looked at through this lens, here’s how some of the common challenges might be affecting your business…
- Productivity – Many of your employees are now working in a very distracting environment. The doorbell is ringing. Friends and family keep calling, not recognizing that they’re “at work.” The housework calls their name. They’re trying to work while overseeing their kids’ now-online education and ignoring their spouse’s loud Zoom meeting in the background. Or perhaps they’re living in a small rental with a crowd of roommates, with everyone attempting to work in cramped quarters. Productivity is taking a hit.
Your people have always worked very collaboratively. In fact, your office space was set up to support collaboration. Now no one seems to be able to figure out how to work collaboratively with people who are not in the same room. Productivity is taking a hit.
A large chunk of people are having connectivity issues. Or equipment issues. Or problems using the tools that you’ve provided to help them collaborate while they’re working from home (“Chris, you’re on mute!”). Productivity is taking a hit.
- Morale – Your entire company culture was built around your fun office environment. Free food…ping pong tables…a high level of camaraderie. You provided a “home away from home” that everyone loved. Now all of that fun and camaraderie are gone. Morale is taking a hit.
Management is worried that people aren’t actually working, so they’re going overboard counting keystrokes and instituting other “Big Brother is watching you” measures. Morale is taking a hit.
Some companies are insisting that their employees work from 9:00 to 5:00 because that’s what they’ve always done. There’s no leeway, for example, for those who may need to supervise their children during the day and prefer to do the bulk of their work in the evening. Morale is taking a hit.
- Security – Managing a distributed network for your newly distributed workforce poses huge data security issues. You’ve got people connecting to your system from unsecure networks. You’ve got people using their own laptops instead of company-issued equipment—or using company-issued equipment for personal use—and you have no idea what else is on them. And the list goes on. Security is taking a hit…so much so that it can potentially pose an existential threat for the entire company.
Once again, how is WFH working for you?
The real answer is that you probably do not know. Why? Because you haven’t asked the right questions. You haven’t talked to different groups of people, gathering them into focus groups to find out what they really think.
Or perhaps you have done some type of surveying, but because you’re the one doing the asking, your team members are being less than honest in their answers. When the boss asks, “how’s it going?” the answer is “great!” But if there was an anonymous, third-party process to gather input, the answers might be very telling.
You may be thinking, “Wouldn’t we notice if something was wrong?” Well, not necessarily. How in tune were you with productivity, morale, security, etc., before this crisis hit? How much were you relying on being physically present to see what was going on?
Even if you have noticed a drop in productivity or morale, have you gone beyond the obvious questions to look deeper? Do you really know which of the many possible contributing factors are the problems? And do you have a plan for addressing them?
The “window of opportunity” to fix your WFH issues has not passed
The good (and bad) news is that because some form of WFH is likely to be here for a while (that’s the bad news), it’s not too late to find and fix problems in this area. CIO Professional Services is available to help with this task.
CIO Professional Services is now offering a Remote Working Assessment. We’ll dig deep to evaluate people, process and technology issues, assess your existing capabilities and situation against leading industry practices, and provide recommendations for improving your remote working environment. For more details, click here.
About David Haedtler
A very capable consultant, David is known for his ability to build high performance teams and workgroups through executive retreats, focus groups, offsite meetings and project launch sessions. His special expertise in using electronic meeting systems to conduct virtual meetings is particularly relevant now. Clients also appreciate David’s extensive experience in managing distributed teams and work groups, change management, and coordinating complex programs and projects.
About CIO Professional Services
Based in the San Francisco Bay area, CIO Professional Services LLC is a top-rated Information Technology (IT) consulting firm focused on integrating Business and Information Technology. Our consultants are all hands-on executives who are veteran CIOs and Partners of Big 4 consulting firms. Companies come to us seeking assistance with their information technology strategy as well as for interim or fractional CIO / CTOs, and negotiation and program management/project rescue assistance.