Trust, Teamwork & Technology
Social distancing and travel restrictions have placed us in a situation of many ‘firsts’. The ‘Work from Home’ approach adopted by many organisations is perhaps the most apparent. This new norm of working from anywhere raises issues varying from the productivity of remote working to managing trust between employees and employers. The ‘future’ of work is already here, and leaders need to take a proactive stance in understanding how work will be done and how that shift impacts the workforce.
The concept of work will continue to centre on interaction, ideation and documentation of varying complexity, but the way in which these take place is changing. At the time of
writing, the COVID19 vaccines are for most parts, ready for active roll-out. Globally, companies are thinking of the next step in working modes – either ending working from home completely, adopting a work from anywhere policy or a hybrid of the two. Understandably, organisations would need to adopt a solution that best fits their business needs and exemplify their unique version of the new work culture and environment.
While we focus on leveraging on technology and strengthening infrastructure to support a working model, one has to bear in mind the key element to successful integration: TRUST.
For some employees with predominantly desk-based office roles, working from home may be a preferred choice primarily due to the flexibility it affords and greater control
over their work schedule. However, infrastructural limitations both physical and IT and connectivity related may result in a less than ideal home working environment as opposed to what a physical office can offer.
Technologies help level the playing field; whether one is working from anywhere or being present at the office, in terms of communication, collaboration or presence. This paves the way for enhanced trust.
Employers also need to establish trust in and with the employees to work remotely recognising that it is not about the hours spent at the workstation, but about productivity and using time effectively to produce and deliver results. Employees are empowered to manage their own time and workload without the infrastructural support of the office and structure of their teams. Leadership and learning are key to brave the changes with trust between the individuals within the organisation for better communication, promotion of transparency and leading by example.
Establishing trust can be a challenge in a remote-working situation but strong empowerment, accountability and support can promote loyalty and encourage productivity. The lack of it may result in employees looking for better opportunities elsewhere.(** at this present time, this is not quite a major issue.)
Communication is key in teamwork. It facilitates work synergy with clear directions, relayed expectation and defined roles and deliverables of team members effectively and timely. Monitoring progress remotely is also a challenge. Without physical and face to face interactions it is easy to miss out critical information and context for smooth teamwork synergy. In working remotely within a team, everyone should be on board in the discussions and no one should be left out of any important team conversations.
Doubtless, technology become a critical component of remote working. It facilitates trust building through a semblance of face-to-face interaction and communications between team members working remotely. However, risks of data security and readiness of systems and regulations should be well anticipated. Laptops, email, and smartphones are now enhanced with access to multimedia-rich communications, including instant messaging and the interactive editing of documents. With the aid of video conferencing platforms, dialogue sessions can be done remotely with a genuine sense of connectedness and spontaneity – provided there is satisfactory video quality and reliability that improve the experience and deliver all the elements of a person-to-person interaction. Technologies help level the playing field; whether one is working from anywhere or being present at the office, in terms of communication, collaboration or presence. This paves the way for enhanced trust. On top of tools that smoothen communication, a number of work management applications also exist which are perfectly suited for organising remote teams. These come with user-friendly interfaces and features designed to improve collaboration among team members and provide a variety of reporting capabilities.
While there exist many plus points of working remotely anytime and anywhere, the new work culture can also be intrusive. Some may suffer from work from home fatigue as there is no defined line to decompress, to unwind and have a proper lunch as oppsed to working in an office environment. Managing generational gap is another challenge. Younger, more tech-savvy employees may not have issues with remote working while their older colleagues may prefer a different approach to work-life balance and team dynamics. In the long run, there may be a decay in “connectivity” if a full
work from anywhere policy is adopted. Issues involving the lower level employees must also be considered as they may not enjoy overtime payments and other allowances during the work from home period. Employees commuting via public transport to work may have a different set of worries and requirements for flexibility while others may suffer from fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) and anxiety.
Therefore, leaders deciding on a remote work design for their companies should not be transfixed only on the availability of technological solutions in their decision making. Questions on the limitations of working from home should also be addressed including personal considerations such as childcare and shrinking income streams of homes affected by the pandemic. The key to effective handling of the transition is open communication and the sharing of concerns as well as the implementation of sound precautionary measures. This is a game-changer for the work-from-home scene and for businesses in general. It potentially solves issues related to timing and logistics and can also creates a connected and proactive team culture, bonded by trust.