Keys to a Successful Work From Home Transition
In this update, Ty Hendrickson from Alliott Group's Preferred Partner in the North America region, The Sales Seed asks the million-dollar question, now that the dust is starting to settle, and economies are beginning to open, "What is our new normal?"
Will things ever go back to the way they were? Will firms ever return to a complete in-office working environment? This depends on who you ask. As the dust starts to settle on the shutdown and economies are beginning to reopen, the million-dollar question remains, “What is our new normal?”
The “new normal” is such a strange phrase, but it is the world we live in now. So much has changed in terms of how we connect with others, what we value, and where we place our time. Which, in the end, looks like it will be a good change. It has also forced professional service firms to make quick changes that the industry as a whole wasn’t projecting for the next 4-6 years.
In the blink of an eye, entire firms had to shift to remote work and a focus on advisory services. These were initiatives on the radar of firm leadership for years, and most firms were slowly embracing it. However, with very little notice, it all seemed to happen at once. For the most part, firms are accepting the change and revisiting their strategies to see how to move forward positively.
For some, this means implementing a full-time or part-time remote work strategy permanently. While businesses and office buildings might be opening back up, there is a large population of employees worried about returning to the office because of many different risk factors. Firms that view their employees as people and not just tools of their firm are recognizing this and working through various scenarios to return to work under the “new normal.”
As someone who has worked remotely and managed teams remotely for almost 15 years, I know there are some significant advantages to working from home. However, there are also some risks to the work from home environment that firms need to address now to successfully transition their staff.
Productivity might be the most significant area of concern in leadership when transitioning to a work from home environment. What’s interesting is that most people are concerned about a lack of productivity because of distractions. Still, most people are more productive at home due to the lack of office distractions IF they have the right set up. That’s a big IF. If you choose a remote option for your workforce, it is incredibly important to do as much as possible to provide the same set up at home for them as they have in their office. Do they have two or more screens at the office? Provide them an extra monitor to work from home. Do they have printing and scanning capabilities at home? This is easy to provide. Yes, there is an additional cost to providing these options, but this will make the biggest impact on their productivity from home.
Probably the main change that you, as leaders, will have to make in a remote work setup is the communication you provide your employees, along with setting up communication channels for everyone. Working from home can sometimes seem like you are on a remote island all by yourself. Opportunities to engage and keep everyone feeling like they are still part of the firm is incredibly important. Yes, this means group calls at least once a week, but it also means more 1-1 conversations. Talking with your employees 1-1 is a necessary part of keeping people engaged in this environment. You need to be on the lookout for individual challenges in a remote setting and ways to support your staff in their specific needs.
In addition to communication at the firm and individual level to keep employees engaged, your employees also need the support they usually have in the office. They can’t walk over to their manager’s desk and ask questions. They can’t easily get information to do their job efficiently. Communication channels should be set up to provide this type of support in a remote environment using technology. Whether through email, instant message, or apps like slack, find what works for your firm and set expectations so that your employees can get the support they need without overwhelming or exhausting those resources.
Lastly, culture has been a hot topic for so many firms in the past few years. Building an amazing culture has been the top initiative to have a thriving practice and attract and retain the top talent. However, culture is the first area of a firm to suffer if firms are not careful. By focusing on communication and engaging your employees, you will help to prevent a loss of culture. Think, no man (or woman) left behind mentality. Give your employees some responsibility in building culture by giving them ownership of parts of the communication. Everyone needs to feel involved, and like they are still making an impact from home.
Working from home can be incredibly successful for many firms. Large companies and organizations have been doing this effectively for many years. Focus on providing your employees with the tools necessary to do their job to the best of their ability and watch for roadblocks. Embracing the change and empowering your employees to get the work done in the most logical way possible is our “new normal,” and if it’s done well, this could be our new “best normal.”
About Ty Hendrickson and The Sales Seed
Ty Hendrickson is a CPA, sales expert, and co-founder of Alliott Group’s Preferred Partner in the North America region, The Sales Seed where she helps professional service firms grow through the integration of sales principles. Learn more about these strategies and programs here