COVID-19 has transformed our ideas about how and where we work - placing flexibility, adaptability, and technology at the heart of the workplace. This shift in the way we work is just the beginning of change.
As we move into 2021, it is evident that we have only begun to scratch the surface of adapting to the new working landscape. Those leading employee development and engagement efforts will have to step into the new year with a fresh perspective and a bold willingness to set new gears in motion.
Strong leadership remains key, but the way we carry ourselves and interact with team members has become more critical than ever before. More importantly, leaders have to set a team’s culture and are responsible for fostering an environment of connection and cohesion, regardless of where everyone is located.
In light of the pandemic, people world-wide were suddenly requested to work from home overnight. With remote work implementation, we have been physically separated, missing out on casual hallway conversations, the quick desk huddle, or ad hoc whiteboard sessions. Thus, leaders must ensure inclusiveness to keep the team connected is front of mind. In the absence of physical closeness, leaders must endeavor to assert their presence in a way that reassures, rallies spirits, and make employees feel valued by their organizations.
To that end, I believe that the most important leadership skill to possess, especially when it comes to a remote workforce, is communication. Communication as a leader should be consistent and regular for certain things, like performance discussions. Even so, personal touch matters a great deal. For example, ad hoc conversations can be left up to the relationship I have with the individual and their personal needs and style.
Despite remote working, technology has offered us a more personal glimpse into our colleagues’ lives, as we are introduced to each other’s partners, kids, pets, and homes. The connectivity provided also allows us to try harder to keep those relationships strong.
The recent months have been a reminder that the connections we make with our co-workers are real, and these links are genuine no matter the distance.
Fostering connectivity and care with our teams is an emerging mandate
On that note, being physically apart means that businesses will have to innovate and explore new methods of preserving employee well-being and maintaining steadfast bonds within the team.
Here at Telstra, we have introduced a few initiatives to keep our team feeling connected. These initiatives include launching a series of webinars sharing how team members can connect and look after their well-being while working from home. Tips were shared on how one can manage emotions at home. Such sharing has imparted knowledge on how we can implement self-care. We also arranged several virtual workouts to stay active and connected while looking after our physical health.
As a leader, making sure that the team has a clear purpose is of utmost importance. Continuous ambitious and achievable goal setting allows every team member to visualize how their part contributes directly to the outcome. Personally, I consider how realistic the goals are by analyzing the business climate and checking in with my team members. I strongly believe in the human touch and having social interactions that make people feel valued – regardless of the nature of our profession or the industry we work in.
The hybrid workforce is here to stay – supporting the new worker will call for a tech refresh and policy re-think
Remote work arrangements need to be tailored to every individual as work flexibility differs in meaning for every person. Furthermore, tomorrow’s workplace will likely no longer be tied simply to the office or home, but a hybrid of the two.
For the leaders, this means regular check-ins to evaluate their teams’ needs and taking a fresh look at the organization to adjust work policies accordingly. Aligned with this, Telstra has always been supportive of flexible and remote working. The COVID-19 restrictions have only reinforced this.
Top-notch collaboration tools will also be key in maintaining a close connection. In particular, technologies that help team members stay connected no matter where they work while affording them the freedom to be mobile and productive whether in the office, at home, or in their favorite café.