Is ‘Virtual’ office the new Reality?

Among the many fallouts of this pandemic, the change in the way we work maybe one more. The ‘forced’ work from home scenario during the pandemic, put “business continuity” protocols to test for most organizations.

This has made many an organization revisit – the need for a physical office; the need for employees to be under a single roof to deliver a product or service; a re-look at the various job-roles, realignment of work and the need for in-office presence for effective productivity. A recent announcement by Twitter stating that all its employees going forward will permanently work from home is one such example.

The view that a credible organization should essentially have a well-designed office, such as Apple and Google campuses, has flown out of the window.

A recent study revealed that, just in the United States, 80 per cent of employees enjoyed working from home and preferred it.

So, make one wonder if this going to be the norm post COVID scenario?

Virtual Office, what does it mean for the organizations?

Unfortunately, work-from-home as a business strategy is not synonymous with increased productivity. Impact on productivity will differ for different people, and this may pose a challenge for the organization to find the right balance. For people with a long commute, the convenience to work from home will increase their productivity. They get more time to work and get a better work-life balance.

While for those, who may not have the right facilities at home this may not hold. This could be on account of, lack of space, connectivity, equipment, uncongenial atmosphere or other factors. Organizations will need to device flexible processes and policies to manage such employees.

Reskilling and retooling employees would be the next focus.

Communication will be the most important skill to cultivate among employees across the cadre. Providing tools, processes that encourage frequent open two-way communication would be key.

Developing initiative and ownership among employees would be the next step. This will need to be complemented with virtual tools that enable collaboration and promote accountability.

Managers will need to use Emotional Quotient and Situational leadership to manage dispersed teams. They will need to embrace the skills and tools to manage and coach teams virtually. Sensitivity towards employees who double as homemakers will be an ask. Flexibility in working hours to balance both sides in a “work from home” situation may be needed.

Managers need to move away from micromanaging employee to managing the productivity of the employee.

Impact on Human Resource & Recruitment Teams 

Human Resource will play a key role in managing this change and making it successful. Communication and Training are two pillars they will need to focus on for employees and self.

They will need to develop skills to interview recruit & induct employees virtually, revisit their processes and induction kits to find ways to inculcate the cultural values in employees without their coming into the office and physically interacting with each other.

On the other hand, recruitment teams suddenly will have a world of candidates available for them to hire as the location would no more be a limitation.

HR in conjunction with IT team will need to undertake aggressive initiatives to provide the right infrastructure and tools along with the much-needed training to create a productive environment for distantly working teams.

Managing Business Transformation

The first change the organizations will need to battle is the mindset. The right mindset and acceptability of this change across the organization will be needed for a successful transition.

Organizations will need to invest a lot of communication and open dialogue to get alignment.

Next would to enable, skill and tool their employees appropriately.

One biggest challenge for organizations with a dispersed workforce is going to be data security, they will need to look at that closely to find the right solution.

As organizations re-look at how they will work for this year and going forward, this may well become the way of life for many. However, one thing is for sure, the Work from Home bunch will miss their “water cooler” moments until they find a virtual alternative to it.

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