Big business gives us plenty of examples of why remote work is an increasingly important business tool. Microsoft, National Australia Bank and Medibank demonstrate the cost savings on offer, while Westpac and the ABC have employed remote work as an attraction and retention strategy.
Misconceptions about the productivity of work from home are melting away as many Australian and international firms experience productivity improvements in the order of 20 per cent gains.
At the centre of this massive shift towards remote work is a growing awareness that remote work is about more than technology. Many an organisation has purchased remote collaboration technologies to find they go unused. Often this is because of a lack of other enablers in the organisation. An effective remote work strategy needs to include, for example, strong leadership, improved management practices, outcomes-based performance systems and adjusted work environments.
Senior Managers, the keystone of effective remote work program, are actually often overlooked. They are pivotal to effective remote work because, while CEOs apprehend the incredible benefits that are possible for their organisation, frontline managers fully grasp that remote work will require significant changes in their management approach. There is a need for a connection between leaders and managers so that the interests of both groups are realised – someone to align the organisation with its strategy.
Frontline managers would often prefer not to manage remote workers. Remote work usually requires them to change the way they manage areas such as performance management – a significant change. Frontline managers also need to adjust how they clarify outcomes and expectations; work out how to use remote collaboration technologies to best effect; and put in place practices to maintain social cohesion and communication.
In fact, managers who manage remotely are required to deal with changes at the core of what it means to manage effectively. While other barriers can arise, management issues are the most common. For some organisations this means that a remote work program doesn’t get off the ground, because managers have been inadequately supported.
It falls to Senior Managers to lead and support frontline managers with resources and a clear strategic direction. On the other hand, who else is in the best position to build understanding in the organisation’s executive leadership team about the implementation challenges and realisable benefits?
Organisations like Microsoft spent years engineering their shift to Activity-Based Work. With so many moving parts, the shift to remote work is best described as a transformation, not a change program. The first mistake to avoid is failing to align your organisation with your remote work strategy. In this, Senior Managers play the pivotal role.
This blog was first published on the First 5000 website.