Keys to implement teleworking in the company (part 3)

Here you have the third installment of the article 'Keys to successfully implement teleworking in the company', (see chapter 1 and chapter 2). Now, I am going to address some of the economic-financial aspects that you need to know to implement a good telework model.

In many companies, the implementation of teleworking is controlled by the HR or Information Systems departments. This causes them to focus on organizational, regulatory, productivity management and technology-related issues. But sometimes they forget that one of the objectives we seek when implementing a remote work model is profitability. It may not be the most important, but it is very important.

If your company has decided to implement a corporate remote work model, you should not forget the five key economic aspects that you should take into account:

First.- Anticipate, make a budget!

Normally, the implementation of telework brings savings for the company. In fact, according to a Gartner study, for 49% of companies cost savings is the most important benefit of incorporating more remote work. Gone are the days when these types of practices were conceived only as tools to improve the work-life balance of workers. Now, many companies focus on issues related to business efficiency, such as the aforementioned savings or productivity improvement (which appears in second place in the same study).

But to achieve cost savings, certain investments must be made, mainly focused on three different areas.

  • The remote workstation. As we will see in the next section.
  • The 'on-site' workplace. In the third section we will see how to face the restructuring of corporate workspaces.
  • Training the new remote workforce. You must not forget that the new scenario will require new skills from your managers (related to remote team management) and your employees (to improve their productivity and also to adapt to the new scenario).

For all this, we insist, once again, on the need for the process of implementing a remote work model to have careful planning. In the economic sphere, this planning involves building a budget that takes into account both the investments necessary for the new system to be implemented with full guarantees for increased productivity. But also the expected savings in the short, medium and long term. And it is important that this exercise is carried out prior to its implementation, because it should help you to make a decision with all the elements on the table.

Second.- Define what you are going to do with the spaces that you are not going to use.

For most companies, the implementation of a remote work model represents the opportunity to rethink infrastructure policies. In the new reality, it does not make much sense to maintain a physical job for each employee, for the simple reason that many of those employees will not fill it. Or at least they will not do it every day of the year. Once the corresponding study has been carried out, you will be able to amortize a part of the 'surplus' square meters by terminating the contracts, if the infrastructure is for rent -and dispose of a liability-, or put them on the real estate market, if it is owned -and turn a liability into an asset. I invite you to do this exercise, if only on a theoretical level. You will be surprised at the amount of money that your company had invested in values ​​far from improving productivity. But for the exercise to work you must take into account two important conditions:

  • The job model must change. The worker conceives his desk or cubicle almost as his own space. In this way you can see how everyone tries to 'customize' it so that it is recognizable. It is common to see family photos, memories, fetishes associated with their tastes and hobbies ... It is about making them 'recognizable'. But in the new reality things are not going like this. The workspaces must be shared, in order to accommodate more workers in the same space. That's not bad, as long as it's accompanied by a change in everyone's mindset, something that requires planning and communication.
  • Workspaces must change. It is not only about getting rid of excess square meters. Those who remain must be transformed. The new offices must serve to cover the needs of remote workers, for a new purpose. In this way, you will have to rethink those spaces so that they promote physical networking (a necessary complement to digital).

I firmly believe that the introduction of corporate telework will mean a revolution in the conception of corporate headquarters. Against what might seem at first glance (reduction of space, depersonalization of the workplace, etc.) I am convinced that we are going to see how they tend to 'humanize' and be more instruments to promote collaborative work than 'flag ships' of the company brand status.

Third.- Quantify how much you are going to invest in the new job.

One of the characteristics of an incipient teleworking model is that the devices are provided by the worker himself. It is what is known as BYOD, an acronym for ‘Bring your own device’. This is a scenario that is going to undergo accelerated change, driven by three factors inherent to the maturity of a system.

  • The security of your systems. As discussed in another chapter, teleworking increases cyber-risks, especially if access occurs through shared devices.
  • Regulation. In Spain, for example, the new telework regulation requires the company to take care of all associated expenses.
  • Ergonomics. Prolonged access to desktop display screens requires minimal fixtures and fittings. Otherwise, we will go back several decades in the advances in safety and health at work.

Do not forget to count these items in the budget that we alluded to in the first section. Even for this you can take into account some optimization strategies. Thus, for example, a part of the furniture and devices that are going to save with the reduction of spaces, you can use them to supply teleworkers. It is also important to consider the possible tax impact on the worker.

Fourth.- Value what the worker earns with teleworking.

It is not about deceiving anyone, it is rather about putting in value the advantages that the new model brings to the worker. Thus, it is positive that the worker perceives that part of the savings that the company will have with the implementation of the model, reverts to the improvement of their working conditions remotely. The provision of devices or the financing of a part of the fixed costs necessary for teleworking or investment in education and training must be quantified and communicated to the worker. This must know what the company saves, but also what it invests to maintain its level of productivity and ergonomics in the new model.

I think you should do an exercise in transparency, to enhance that feeling of win-win that fosters commitment and motivation of the staff.

Fifth.- Reflect on the environmental and social contribution.

Most companies have been working for a long time to implement sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the scope of their corporate social responsibility policies. Well, the implementation of a telework model contributes very decisively to this sustainable development. It is a commitment to the workers, but also to the rest of the interest groups and to the environment. So far we have measured the carbon footprint in terms of its reduction by saving paper and reducing travel for meetings, and many companies publish proud statistics on this in their sustainability reports. Well, when your company reduces the flow of its workers to the office by, say, 60%, it is decisively contributing to improving the environment of the city, due to the reduction of trips that it entails. If the majority of companies do it, the improvement is exponential, and the cost savings associated with traffic, pollution control, etc., too.

In any case, in the contribution of digitization to the environment there are also shadows. Cloud storage requires 'data centers' all over the world, which consume enormous amounts of energy, mainly for cooling and maintenance. The estimate of the International Energy Agency is that they consume an amount equivalent to 75% of the energy consumed in an industrialized country like Spain every hour.

Finally, we cannot forget that the reduction of trips is also a determining factor for the reduction of occupational accidents, which in turn causes a significant cost for companies, workers and for society. Let us not forget that mortality in occupational traffic accidents already accounts for 45% of mortality due to occupational accidents in Spain, according to Asepeyo.


Six key questions about teleworker predictive performance

A critical appraisal, beyond remote work

Many managers are reflecting on the post-COVID telework model and which people are going to join it and which people are not. The answer should be based on the characteristics of the job. But also from the assessment of the professional and personal profiles of the candidates, their knowledge and skills. And of the trust that is placed in each of them by their leader. In the end, when you balance aptitude and attitude, aptitude adds up, but attitude multiplies.

If you are immersed in that reflection, be sure to read the advice that I share below.

Now is the time to make the decision.

You're going to have to make a decision, and you know it. To do it with foundation, it is best that you base yourself on objective data. Think that you cannot take it based on discriminatory criteria or that violate fundamental rights. Besides being unethical, it is not legal.

To help you, here are some reflections that you can apply to each of the people who could telework. You have probably heard and corroborated them with practical examples many times, but you have hardly seen them in writing. They are very basic and are based on a classification according to attitude towards work:

  1. Due to their willingness to assume new functions, you can distinguish between:
  1. People who you have to ask for everything and who you have to pursue to do their job. And yet, they either take a long time to do it or they just don't. Your real skill is being the people with the most free time in the office. They have a tendency to procrastinate.
  2. People to whom you should only give general guidelines when they are entrusted with a task, simply accept the order and fulfill it in a timely manner. You can identify them because they are those that have more work and less time to lose.
  1. By their degree of initiative you can distinguish between:
  1. People who are limited to executing what you ask of them, nothing more and nothing less. They tend to have a passive listening attitude, with few contributions. As Xavier Marcet says, "No one in the company knows how they got there, but everyone knows that they will never leave."
  2. People who ask you about the next job as soon as they lose their jobs. They tend to be the ones who receive the most assignments in the office, and yet remain receptive. In short, they give a lot and demand little
  1. By their attitude towards the company, you can distinguish between:
  1. People for whom everything is wrong, everything can be improved. They are mailboxes of complaints and claims with legs. A thousand problems come out of his mouth, but not a single solution. They are permanently bitter and end up embittering those closest to them.
  2. People who are used to providing solutions to your company's problems, even when you don't ask. Of course, they show critical attitudes to areas for improvement (don't trust someone who doesn't express any criticism) but this is always with a constructive sense. You will identify them because they give multiple answers to a single question instead of giving a single answer to all questions.
  1. Due to their willingness to motivate, you can distinguish between:
  1. People who are permanently unmotivated. They are like lost souls, dragging their feet around the office waiting for the time to go home. To put it in some way; "They are there but they are not."
  2. People who come from home motivated. Normally, they are optimistic people, who transmit 'good vibes' to their environment. You never have to give them orders, he just makes them accompany and help them achieve their goals. The notes ‘connected’ with the purpose of the company.
  1. By their ability to take risks, you can distinguish between:
  1. People who only have a single skill or knowledge. They don't want to get out of their comfort zone or stop being the most experienced person in their functional niche. They live exclusively for today, they are not worried about their professional future or, obviously, that of their company.
  2. People who feel the need to change, to develop new skills. They perceive that they live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous world. These people put in extra time to develop new skills. even if the company does not provide them with the resources to do so. If necessary, they do it with their own resources and outside of working hours.
  1. Due to their attitude to discipline in the company, you can distinguish between:
  1. People who live in permanent fear of being fired. They often find legal mechanisms to ensure that it is not practically impossible to do so.
  2. People who know if they are not going to be fired, the truth is that they do not care in the least. And the most curious thing is that their supervisors try to take care of them so that they do not leave of their own accord.

Confidence is the key.

What's up? Have you been able to reflect on it? If they win the a): do not reach a telework agreement with her. In short, if you don't trust them for face-to-face work, you won't trust them to telework either.

But if a) predominates in your team, you have a serious problem. And if your company is smaller the problem can be huge. Even an obstacle to its development and to its viability, something that goes much further than allowing is teleworking or not. At that point, the next item for reflection has to do with whether you have the right leadership styles and whether the exercise of hierarchy is going well.

 


Keys to implement teleworking in the company (part 2)

Four technological aspects you need to know

Here is the second installment of the article "Keys to successfully implement teleworking in the company". In this chapter, I am going to refer to some of the technological aspects that you need to know and manage to build a corporate telework model.

The employee at home, systems in the cloud.

Technology is the main facilitating factor for teleworking. It does not mean that it is the most important, but that without it the rest cannot start. To put it in some way, it is an ‘enabling’ factor.

Obviously, the complexity of the technological setup will largely depend on the size of the company and the teams. However, from my point of view, the main aspects that you should take into account are:

  • Communication system. Have communication tools based on the person and not on the physical job.
  • Collaborative office automation. Use office automation tools that encourage collaborative work, both with regard to document management (word processor, spreadsheets) and productivity management (for example, with a suitable project manager).
  • Security policy. Activate a constant concern for maintaining the security of your company's information.
  • Device management. Design a policy of hardware tools for employees that allow them to carry out work remotely with the maximum guarantees of efficiency and reliability

First of all, I want to draw your attention to the need to migrate information systems to cloud services. 10 years ago hardly anyone was familiar with the concept of 'cloud'. Today it is one of the most used, both by primary school children and by mature people. For teleworking, it is the hygiene factor par excellence.

Communication enrolled to the person, not to the job.

When you have a team working remotely, connecting people is the top priority. Think that, today, having a corporate computer to work without a good connection is like having a smartphone without 4G or Wi-Fi. You have an excellent flashlight and a good alarm clock, little more ...

First, the phone. Although in this digital age it may seem very basic, customer service by telephone is essential. Every unanswered call is a lost business opportunity. That is why for a teleworker organization it is essential to know the level of overflow of the calls received in each business unit (or even on a personal level). By overflow index we understand those calls missed (not answered) for every hundred incoming calls. For this, it is important that the teleworking system is based on a communication model associated with the person, not the physical position.

Digitization allows us to evolve from active models to passive, less intrusive models of communication. This is equivalent to going from a communication based on physical interaction or the phone call, to a communication based on email and, better yet, in instant messaging or chat. Internal social networks like Slack or Microsoft Teams have displaced hallway or cafeteria conversations. Video meetings and chats on Webex, Zoom or Hangouts have displaced face-to-face meetings and phone calls. This is a very important leap in improving efficiency and productivity. Bear in mind that active models are more invasive and distract the worker when he does not choose that distraction. To put it in a graphic way: you can minimize the corporate chat and attend it later when you have availability but you cannot minimize the phone calls.

Exponential productivity tools.

Today technology must be an element that allows people to be creative, build and grow. And that they do it through collaborative work. Office automation is now more collaborative than ever, thanks to G-Suite (now Google Workspace) or MS Office 360, among others. In short, synchronous technology is evolving and more and more workers are deciding when and how to interact.

Beyond basic corporate systems, there are many options to collaborate more and be more productive.

  • Project or task management programs, such as Trello or Jira. They allow you to organize your tasks so that they have the 'assembly line' effect. The truth is that you have to force yourself to use them but when you do, they become indispensable, especially and you have the role of team manager.
  • Messaging programs. Many large organizations already have it integrated into their office suites or communication systems. If you don't have it, you can install WhatsApp (better, for security, the business version).
  • ‘Helps’ to productivity. There are programs that you can install on your devices and that help you be more productive. One of the ones I use is the 'Online Stopwatch', which helps me assign maximum times to each task. Everyone can search for those productivity apps that help them the most. Although a corporate orientation would not hurt on those that best suit your needs.

The more teleworking, the more exposure to risk.

Cybersecurity, one of the most relevant concepts is having in the management committees of companies. Today, it is perhaps the factor that can most compromise the business continuity and corporate reputation of your company.

When you open your systems to different environments you are increasing their exposure to risk. It also occurs when the client is empowered to operate with your systems (for example, through an App). But with employees the risk is higher. The weakest link in cybersecurity is man. In fact, the IBM Cyber ​​Security Intelligence Index study ensures that 95% of cybersecurity attacks or incidents are due to human failures, above the vulnerability of systems. Thus, with teleworking, attacks on the security of your systems can be more frequent and more intense.

Before continuing, in the field of cybersecurity, I would like you to take into account the difference between two different concepts: cyber threats and cyber risks. Cyber ​​threats are deliberate, offensive exploitative maneuvers that aim to take control, destabilize or damage a system (a clear example is phishing). Cyber ​​risks are potential threats to the business as a result of a loss of confidentiality, integrity, and the availability of digital assets.

Your work should focus on minimizing cyber risks through protocols. Also make sure that your teleworkers have sufficient knowledge and skills. To do this, you can run simulations that test their ability to respond to major cybersecurity (for example, simulating a phishing attack on a group of employees or a ransomware lawsuit to which the management committee must respond).

Device management, the hygienic factor in telework management

We refer to remote employees' work tools. In addition to deciding their composition, it is important to know if they will be borne by the worker (BYOD, bring your own device), with compensation, or will the company be directly responsible for providing them. In another article, I will talk about the mechanisms to provide remote workers with good devices and at the same time make the model economically profitable for your organization.

Finally, don't forget to measure the degree of use of the technologies associated with remote work. Management should not be limited to providing the best possible technology. In order to achieve an optimal level of usability and adaptation of this technology, it is necessary to be able to detect and analyze communication flows. Knowing digital behaviors in order to anticipate changes that allow us to optimize information systems.


Keys to implement teleworking in your company

First chapter: The workspaces.

The organization of a teleworking model is one of the most complex steps you can tackle. Because beyond the legal and technological aspects, you will be facing a project to develop the corporate culture of your company. To be successful you need three things: strategy, leadership, and method.

The four pillars of telework management

You will have to manage the phenomenon holistically, that is, addressing all the relevant issues:

  • Workspaces.
  • Technology.
  • Financial aspects.
  • Leaders and employees.

In this article I am going to focus on the first one: workspaces. I will analyze the rest in future chapters.

The creative workplace.

It is clear that you will not need the same square meters of office. You have before you a golden opportunity to reduce the real estate liability of your company. Actually, it's not just about that. Activity-based, flexible and open spaces are displacing closed cubicles and offices, making people more visible. In short, less but better.

However, you need to keep three key concepts in mind:

  • Open office. The model of spaces in a corporate telework environment (let's say 50% physical presence) has its challenges. The first is to be able to maintain or increase personal interactions when you have fewer people living together at the same time in the office. It is not easy, because technology tends to bring those who are far closer together and those who are close (whoever has teenagers will know what I mean). Also: Who has not visited offices where people work with their headphones, isolated from the immediate environment.
  • Flexible workplace. You will have to configure the new physical workstation model. The concept of 'hot table' (two or more people sharing a desk on different days) is here to stay. But, in parallel, teleworking brings a series of economic obligations for the employer. Covering the expenses related to the performance of their work for the teleworker and doing nothing to finance it entails doubling expenses. Not all companies can afford it. We will refer to this when we address the economic-financial lever.
  • Collaboration and co-creation. In quantitative terms, a teleworking model generates fewer opportunities to promote face-to-face interactions. People are simply spending less time in the office. It's now more relevant than ever that office design encourages collaboration. In 2019 I had the opportunity to visit various headquarters of important companies in the San Francisco area, such as Airbnb. I was surprised to see how the spaces accompany the mission and objectives of the companies. Everything revolves around the employee experience, networking, collaboration and co-creation. Here we have advanced more in technological interaction (what I call ‘human tech’) than in human interaction (the ‘human touch’).

Beyond the home office.

Teleworking means that people are going to carry out part of their working day outside the company's facilities. But where? In principle, everything seems to indicate that the most logical place is your home. But it's not always like this.

On the other hand, it's not just about sending people home to work. The 'home office' requires an adaptation. If you are going to start it now, it is important that you bear in mind the following:

  • The distance work pact. In Spain, the new regulations require that the company and the worker agree in writing where this telework will take place. And if it changes, even if it is temporary, you must modify the written agreement, in advance. A new corset for employers and employees in the development of new ways of working.
  • Concentration at home. Concentration levels can drop at home. In addition to the factors of lack of concentration endogenous to work (email, telephone, internal chats, etc.), there are some factors exogenous to work that can lead to a decrease in productivity (external visits, care of children or dependents , home delivery of purchases, etc.). It is very important that you put emphasis on helping your hardworking people to remain as detached as possible from these factors of lack of concentration.
  • Health and safety. We have been emphasizing ergonomics or psychosocial risks for years. Now, teleworking transfers a part of that corporate responsibility to the homes of working people. It is convenient that you do not abandon them. Consider, as an example, if in your offices you would allow your workers to be in front of a viewing screen of less than 12 inches during an 8-hour day, or if you would do it without giving them a series of guidelines. Remember, for the purposes of prevention, teleworking means that the employer's obligations are multiplied, at least, by two.

In short, when you approach the telework model in a holistic way, part of the difficulties disappear. As stated in the article ‘Teleworking as a new company culture’, the success of teleworking depends on its being assumed as a company culture rather than as a way of working. And that assumption also involves defining how the offices should be and how the worker is going to develop his function in the new environment.


The organization of telework in the COVID-19 era

Balance remote work and face-to-face work in a safe environment

Twenty days are missing from the publication of this article for the entry into force of the new law on distance work in Spain (Royal Decree-Law 28/2020). And at this time one of the main concerns of companies is how to organize work from the point of view of the presence-distance binomial. Employee chats burn with the same question: Will they force us to go back to the office every day when the pandemic passes? And most HR departments are trapped in the paradox of having to design what post-COVID telework will be like and the hard day-to-day management of the incidence of COVID itself. A complex and stressful situation.

At what point should you start implementing the post-COVID telework model?

The founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, advised new members of the Society not to move in times of tribulation. Although in another context, this would be my first advice. The teleworking that you have been able to implement responds to an exceptional model that has adapted to an exceptional situation. There are too many unknowns to solve. In the first place, the effects of a pandemic that has not stopped. Second, an ‘express’ change management that has not allowed managers and employees to assume this new reality well prepared. And finally, a royal decree-law on remote work, approved on September 22, which, although it establishes a first regulatory framework, leaves many important decisions to a collective bargaining that has not occurred. For all the above, I believe that it is not the best moment to define what the teleworking model will be like in the future in a specific organization. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything. Unlike. Now is the time to experiment and prepare for the future (post-COVID teleworking). But without being too explicit, it is better to be cautious until you see how the unknowns are cleared and your template responds to the changes.

How to organize face-to-face shifts safely? The Alpha, the Bravo and the Charlie

One of the main difficulties that the HR department has had to manage is the actions against COVID-19 infections in workers. This is inevitable, because most of these infections come from interactions in the private sphere and the company is not immune to them. However, from a security point of view, you can prepare so that these infections have the least possible impact in terms of internal transmission.

To do this, below, I explain seven very simple ideas.

  • Try to organize the provision of work so that there is as little contact as possible between working people. You must try to produce the same bubble effect within the company that is taking place in schools.
  • To achieve this bubble effect, it establishes fixed shifts to provide the service. As an example, you can set two shifts: the first that works in person Monday, Tuesday and alternate Friday, the second that works in person on alternate Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The rest of the days, telecommuting. Make clear the importance of fixed shifts, for safety. Divide the working people into halves, taking the department or organizational unit as the axis of that division.
  • Establish a different shift for managers, so that they can have direct supervision over all of their teams, that is, over the two shifts. This means that, in the previous model, managers should work in person, at least Tuesday and Wednesday and two continuous Fridays.
  • Try to 'gamify' the system. Assign names to each turn (in this case they could be the Alpha-managers-, the Bravo and the Charlie). This way you will have people assigned to Bravo shift and Charlie shift and Bravo Friday and Charlie Friday. It is easy to understand.
  • Before implementing the system, talk to the managers. Make a video conference with all of them and solve their doubts. The HR department should be seen as an internal advisor, a help. Oh, and if you haven't done it yet, train them now in remote team management.
  • Don't forget to have a registration system for shift assignments so that you can see who works each day, in advance. There are many applications for this, but if you don't have any you can do it with a simple data sheet in the cloud, accessible to everyone.

The above are ideas that you can implement now, during the pandemic. However, there are things you should start thinking about. For example, start designing a scorecard to help managers set and track individual and group performance goals. Bear in mind that efficient corporate telework requires greater degrees of autonomy and self-management of the workers. But that is not at odds, on the contrary, with having a dashboard for monitoring the objectives set. You should also think about the financial model of teleworking, because the new regulations will lead you to have to pay for the provision and maintenance of the means, equipment and tools. In short, do numbers.

A flexible system that allows you to adapt extraordinary situations.

When you have the model prepared (and written in procedural form), the moment of truth comes: put it into operation. But do not forget that at any time your company may have an infected worker. At that time you must preventively confine all their contacts, until confirmation or not by PCR. That is when the model shows its virtues. If it has been implemented correctly, it should only be activated on the people on duty (Bravo or Charlie) from a specific department. In any case, to fine-tune the previous process, it is highly recommended that you have internal trackers. People who are in charge of talking with infected people and compile their list of contacts in the last days. Once this is done, let them coordinate the isolation of these contacts until confirmation or not of the disease.


The manager and the corporate teleworking

Ten fears that you must overcome to implement in a traditional company

The changes generate fears for those who must implement them and resistance for those who must execute them. It's normal, it's part of human nature. If I want to organize a corporate telework model, it means that I am going to promote a change in the way we work in my company. On the other hand, if I want to do it well, I am going to try to transform a part of what constitutes your corporate culture, which is something very relevant.

When a manager is faced with that decision, he cannot move around fashions, trends or conjunctural situations. You must perform a very fine analysis on the fit that this decision will have in the company's strategy. And you will have doubts, for sure. The doubts are accentuated when we talk about implementing teleworking, because it is something that does not have a direct correlation with the development of the business. And I want to highlight the concept of ‘direct correlation’, because indirectly it is clear that it does. On the contrary, it is a change that will modify the way in which working people will carry out their functions. And that does not have, once again, a direct correlation to the income statement. It is clear that motivated employees generate more efficient companies, and more efficient companies, generally end up being more profitable. The risks are not few, and hence the fears arise.

We are going to analyze some of those main fears that can arise and end up becoming pain points. We are going to do it based on the vision of the leader or manager himself. It is about putting emphasis on some of the reflections that any 'normal' manager has raised when facing this type of situation. And we are going to put it in the first person, with a triple approach: those fears that affect staff, management team level and worker level. In each approach we are going to display three main fears. Let's see:

Regarding me.
  • Digital transformation is a wave that will overtake me, I don't know if I will be able to digitize, at my age. Perhaps it is better to wait and see and, in any case, for the in-depth approach to be done by the next generation, who will be more prepared.
  • I have got to where I am thanks to the many hours I have invested in my company. In fact, in recent years I have spent more time in my office than at home. And I know my people very well because I have spent a lot of time with them. I'm not sure I can run my business without that touch component.
  • I worry that the board does not quite understand. It is very difficult for me to transmit actions that are not directly related to direct business results. Although I am very clear that innovation in management is just as important as innovation in product, process or service. In short, it will cost me a lot to "sell" the idea without being certain about the result.
Regarding my management team.
  • I don't know if I have the right management team for this new reality. They are very capable people with a lot of knowledge of our business, but it is difficult for them to manage changes and they do not feel comfortable in managing uncertainty.
  • My senior management team is used to leading their teams in a very traditional way, assigning tasks and continuously monitoring their performance. Perhaps I am going to meet great resistance on his part to manage that change, and I don't know if it is worth opening that melon.
  • It is not clear to me who to assign operational leadership of change management. I am clear that the most important thing has to do with the human factor, but I see that the HR department is very focused on its own processes (and they do it very well). On the other hand, it could be led by the CTO, but he cannot be distracted from his main objectives, and managing the human side is not his greatest strength. The one who has direct responsibility for the workforce is the director of operations, but I am concerned that he will stop focusing on the business. The truth is that I do not want to resort to an external, but ...
Regarding my employees.
  • I am aware that one of the priority objectives of all people is to achieve a better reconciliation of personal and professional life, and I agree. But when I bring it to my specific company I am not sure that my workers can maintain the level of performance without direct and personal supervision of middle managers. I'm not saying it's not possible, I'm just not totally sure.
  • It takes my employees a long time to come to terms with the small changes that have occurred over time. In this way, I imagine that the management of major changes will need a degree of involvement that I don't know if we are going to achieve. I do not know if the fear of the unknown is going to generate new resistance that may end up diverting us from the final goal.
  • To manage change I will need to measure the degree of progress with data. In this sense, I would like to have indicators that allow me to show the Council that with this new way of working we gain efficiency and motivation. But that means measuring something that we haven't done until now and I'm afraid that it could cause labor unrest.
And finally, the big question: will it be worth getting into this mess?

After all, my company has survived many crises and if something has remained unchanged over time, it is the way we work here (obviously, with the adaptations resulting from technological advances).

I do not know if someone who is reading this article and now, after the COVID-19 crisis, has to decide on this issue feels reflected in these reflections. If so, I think it's good news. Why? Because any change must be preceded by a process of strategic reflection and that process cannot exist without taking into account the possible threats, that is, the fears and obstacles that you must overcome if you want to be successful. And because the management of fear is inherent to the management of business organizations.

Innovation in the company is not an act of conquest, it is an exercise in exploration.

It has to do with moving into the unknown and the unknown generates fear. And it is in the hands of those who are capable of changing the present in which they live to build the future they imagine. It is not the objective of this article to provide answers to these fears. Each manager will have to find them for himself. We will continue to advance on this in future writings, when we address an essential aspect of corporate telework management: its fit into the company's strategy. When we get to that stage, it will be very important to have made progress in managing the manager's fears.


teletrabajo corporativo

Teleworking as a new management model

The organization of a corporate teleworking system must obey a management model.

From the point of view of working people, teleworking has many advantages. In general, those who prefer this modality present higher levels of motivation towards their functions. They also tend to have higher levels of commitment to the Company. But this is not the case in all cases and a good management model must be able to detect this.

From the point of view of the company, one of the objectives is to ensure that teleworkers perform equal to or better than the rest. Although it seems obvious, not all organizations put all the effort into that goal. Many lack a performance management 'control room', much less when it comes to the performance of remote workers. In any case, the organization of a corporate teleworking system must obey a management model.

Next we are going to give some guidelines to ensure that an organization can say that it knows the performance of its teleworkers. And we will do so by generalizing, perhaps excessively, because in this text we cannot differentiate by activity sectors or company sizes. Some of you may say, with reason, that this analysis is a responsibility that must be the responsibility of each manager. But here we try to lay the foundations of a strategic scorecard that can serve so that Senior Management knows the state of the situation and can make decisions about it. And as always in these cases it is about managing not based on impressions, but based on data.

These are the main levers that we must take into account so that our teleworking model is more efficient:

  • Telephone management.

It may seem like a very basic concept in this digital age, but telephone customer service is essential. Every unanswered call is a lost business opportunity. That is why it is essential for a teleworker organization to know the level of overflow of the calls received in each business unit (or even on a personal level). By overflow index we understand those calls missed (not answered) for every hundred incoming calls. To get to know this information it is important that the teleworking system is based on a unified communications model. We must avoid managing by calls via mobile phone (which will also exist, as in the case of face-to-face work). Something similar is happening with email service, which we'll cover in more depth in a future article.

  • Meeting management.

As we pointed out in our article 'How to improve the efficiency of your virtual meetings', having video meetings has many advantages. Save time and travel costs, increase digital skills and collaborative work, etc. But it is also important that Senior Management has a direct report on the meetings held, their conclusions and their follow-up. One of the worst things that can happen to an organization is falling into excess of useless meetings. Keep in mind that this is a danger that is accentuated in the virtual world, since there is no expense management component that face-to-face meetings have.

  • Process management.

In a somewhat simplistic way we can differentiate between those working people whose job is based more on process management from those that is based more on project management. There is little we can add here about the benefits that process management has brought to business management in the last half century. But it is not enough to define and diagram these processes. In the new digital environment, it is very important to provide ourselves with indicators that allow us to trace each process. In this way, we will be able to know, almost in real time, their levels of progress, as well as assess the performance by business units and possible problems from the organizational point of view. It should also be taken into account that, sometimes, remote work requires a process reengineering exercise that must always be carried out before starting the model.

  • Projects management.

It provides the necessary capacity for innovation to be able to keep each organization at the forefront of its market or sector. Working people who, due to their functions, work through projects have used to have greater autonomy than those who work through processes. However, it is important to remember the essential guidelines to follow: a good project manager who assigns tasks and deadlines, project management software that provides traceability to project management, and a project governance system with the corresponding report by KPI's to different internal stakeholders.

  • Change management.

Changes in organizations are far from easy, especially those that involve an evolution in the cultural model of the company that has been established throughout its history. It is very important to establish a gantt chart of project implementation, accompanying managers and workers in the process. That means a series of steps will have to be followed:

    • Determination of the necessary tools to telework by job. It will also be important to know if these tools will be the responsibility of the worker (BYOD, bring your own device) or will the company be responsible for it.
    • Management of the different legal requirements, from the contractual novation agreement, if applicable, to the occupational risk assessment aspects of the job.
    • Training for managers. It is very important to develop the skills necessary to lead remote teams. They are not the same as for face-to-face teams.
    • Training for working people. The goal is always to maximize the performance of the teleworker. To do this, it is critical to maximize your training possibilities, to help you adapt as quickly to this new work environment.
  • Connection management.

It is undoubtedly the least relevant lever when measuring the performance of a teleworker organization. But it is no less necessary for that. Teleworkers have the same obligation to register their schedule (something highly debatable in the 21st century) as other working people. Likewise, the company has the same obligation to measure that working and connection time to guarantee that the working time contractually agreed with each worker is not exceeded. Nor that there are grievances from those people who meet their schedule compared to those who do not. But make no mistake, these are hygienic data that do not measure performance and therefore have a relative value. Be careful not to focus on that value, we can fall into ‘telepresentism’.

The importance of control and monitoring of the model.

The aforementioned indicators can constitute a dashboard for Senior Management to monitor the work model. Beyond the fact that someone may value it as an excess in the power of organization and control of the company, well applied it can be a very valuable tool for this new business culture to consolidate, which will end up benefiting both the company and the workers.
In any case, any telework management model must be accompanied by a systemic corporate project. In this way, it is important to plan, design and unify its implementation. And also hope that the regulation (at the moment there is a draft bill on remote work) does not represent an inconvenience for companies to decide to move forward on that path.

In any case, remember: the success of a corporate telework model is due to a management model. Not to an improvisational model.


Manage the human factor in COVID-19 mode

The COVID-19 crisis has been a tsunami that has directly impacted the ways of managing the company.

The companies in Spain have had to reconvert in a few weeks to be able to stay as the main axis on which our welfare state is founded. In relation to the direct impact that COVID has had on its organization and human resources, we could differentiate between three types of companies:

  • ERTE companies. They reduced their workforce as a consequence of the inability to receive supplies or directly due to a reduction in the demand of their sector.
  • Telecommuting companies. They were able to make their templates more flexible to maintain the same service provision remotely.
  • Companies essential service. They maintained their templates as a result of the increased request for their services or products.

Many organizations cannot be classified only in one of the previous types but have maintained a hybrid model (for example, with partial ERTE or with a part of their templates remotely and another in person).

In all cases, the pandemic has radically revealed the theory of the new era VUCA (English acronym for volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous). Because: What could be more uncertain and changing than a virus forces you to modify your entire business process, which in most cases has taken years to build, in just a few hours or days?

Many companies had invested heavily in designing business continuity plans for assumptions (a war or an earthquake, for example) that just a year ago seemed like a pipe dream to us. Others, most of them, have had to improvise and abruptly adapt to reality and changing regulations (often difficult to interpret). In all cases, it has been a majestic challenge for all business managers in this country and for workers and their representatives. And it is not over, we will still live pending intermittent outbreaks until we have an effective remedy. Anyway, it is a good time to reflect on what we have done and how we have done it. This can help us to recognize the architects of successes and to learn from mistakes to avoid making them again, next time.

In any case, focusing on the human side of the company, in general, we can count on the following four great lessons learned. Although many of us already knew them, it is worth remembering them.

  • The quality of a company is directly proportional to the quality of its human capital. A no-brainer that is demonstrated when when things get really ugly. If you have recruited and loyalty the best people, you will get the best results. And it is something tangible, which goes beyond what has been reflected in formal mission, vision and values ​​documents.
  • Collective success lies in the exercise of teamwork. The only way in which a company can face a radical change in a minimum time is by making everyone in it work together towards a common goal. It is something that is not improvised. As in sports, teamwork in a company requires hard training under the supervision of a leader with clear objectives.
  • The level of leadership depends on the level of empowerment you practice. Some companies, as they grow, tend to maximize their internal control mechanisms. Sometimes they may give the impression that they do not trust hard-working people. But to manage the adversity you need people who make decisions for themselves, without fear of being wrong. This can only happen through a management model that reduces hierarchical supervision through personal empowerment. The result is called confidence, and it is the main unsanitary factor of work motivation.
  • Internal governance must be inconspicuous but effective. Although teamwork and individual empowerment have been a source of success on most occasions, all that energy does not converge in the common interest but is accompanied by a plan and a method. In this sense, hierarchy is essential. But the most efficient hierarchy is the invisible hierarchy, those that mark destiny but allow the road to be built among all.

Surely each of us will be able to add a few more lessons, and we will all accept. But the most important thing about learning a lesson is having the opportunity to put that learned knowledge into practice. If not, time causes it to drop and forget.


Teletrabajo como cultura empresaril

Telework as a new company culture

The success of telework depends on it being assumed as a company culture rather than a way of working.

Often the focus is more on the action of teleworking than its management model. Beyond the emergency action following COVID-19, this model requires you to activate a series of mechanisms in advance:

  • Prepare our systems. You can't collaborate remotely with local systems, and that's something you can't improvise. We must be aware that not properly planning our information and communication systems can have an impact on our productivity and the security of the information we manage. But, in addition, it is recommended to validate if our internal processes will work in the same way remotely.
  • Prepare our people. Telecommuting involves a paradigm shift. Some companies insist on digitizing working people, without realizing that, nowadays, these people are already digitized from their personal environments. Rather, it is about helping them acquire skills that increase their performance. And, above all, generating sufficient levels of trust that allow empowered people to contribute more with lower levels of direct supervision.
  • Prepare our management. I know managers who doubt that the people who telecommute can be as productive as those who do it in the company. To avoid falling into these demagogues, we must have a management system that allows us to know the performance of those who work remotely. Someone could say that this system should exist independently in all cases, not just in telecommuting. And they would be right. But when you want to change an entrepreneurial culture, it is very important to plan the future based on the Data, to reduce resistance to change.
  • Prepare our managers. In companies with traditional presenteeism-based business cultures, many resistances come from directive or supervisory lines. It is true that most changes should be cascaded. But, sometimes, when the previous points have not been activated and acted in an unplanned way, these directives must excessively exercise functions of correcting inefficiencies, with the consequent demotivation.

In summary, the implementation of a teleworking model requires a well thought-out decision, it cannot be the result of fashion. Like any other cultural change in the company, it requires an internal management model that takes into account both systems and people. We can only say that we have achieved successful teleworking when we can demonstrate that the collective performance of the organization is not conditioned by the physical presence of the people who comprise it. So yes, we can affirm that we have changed the culture of our company.


Five tips for leading hybrid teams

Great leaders are not responsible for the work, they are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work.

Become the leader that you would like to have.

Leading a team is not an easy task. Many people suffer daily from leaders who fail to make their teams work. Why it happens? It has to do with the way professional development is managed in organizations.

When you are a junior your main responsibility is to do your job well. You get paid and valued for how well you do. And your company invests a lot in your training, precisely so that you can do it even better. Over time someone proposes you to promote to a position in which you become responsible for people who do the work that until then you did. But no one has taught you how to do that. You become a boss, but you are not a leader yet. You have not made the transition and you tend to get involved in what you feel strong in, which is nothing other than what has made you promote. And right at that moment you start to practice micromanagement. Many HR managers must be familiar with this script ...

The most important challenge in becoming a good leader is to start assuming that you are no longer responsible for the work, you are now responsible for the people who are responsible for the work. The focus should be on taking care of those in your charge. It is a transition that can take more or less time. Some never get to do it, and inevitably fall into the so-called Peter Principle.

So far the difficulties of assuming the role of leader. But if the teams do not share physical spaces, the quantitative possibilities of maintaining contact with them is reduced. And the difficulty increases.

Here are some tips, from my experience, to lead high performance teams remotely:

FIRST.- It transmits the purpose of the team and clarifies its objectives.

Many leaders are very good at telling their teams what to do and how to do it. It's about assigning tasks and following established procedures. It is logical, but if you stay in that part of the management of your responsibility as a leader, it will be very difficult for your team to connect with something greater. Something that transcends your day to day. One of the most important responsibilities is that, as a leader, you explain very well what is the purpose of your team and of each of the people that make it up. When I speak of purpose, I mean the answer to a single question: Why do we do what we do?

Therefore, start by sharing with your team the purpose of what you do and leave the details of the procedures and tasks for later. If you do it like this you will achieve higher levels of 'engagement'. You will go from connecting with your limbic brain instead of your neocortex. You will go on to connect with their emotional side instead of their rational side. If you believe in that purpose (because it makes sense to you), your team will probably believe in what you believe.

Once your purpose is communicated, be sure to set very clear goals that everyone understands in the initial stage. An essential characteristic of remote or hybrid teams is that the levels of supervision decline over time, so it is important that they understand the objective at the beginning of the journey. You put the gas, and let them drive ...

SECOND.- Build interpersonal trust.

Trust is the foundation of all team management, and hybrid work environments make you have to build it by providing an extra proactivity. You need people to maintain personal connections in the distance, the basis for maintaining trust. Without personal connection there is no trust. The distance between people does not help them connect. You must serve as a catalyst for those connections. Become the synapses of those neurons that are the members of your team.

You will need to exercise your leadership so that people feel safe to raise their hands and acknowledge when they make a mistake. Or feel confident to tell you that they have a problem at home and that it is affecting their work. Or that they need more training for a new responsibility, of which they do not have enough knowledge. If you don't build trustworthy teams, you could end up with a group of people who show up for work every day lying, hiding, and pretending. They will hide mistakes for fear of getting into trouble. They will not admit that they do not know what they are doing for fear of being humiliated. Remember: The most important question you can ask yourself as a leader is not whether you trust your team, but whether your team trusts you.

THIRD.- Communicate with predictability.

Poorly managed remote computers tend to have unpredictable communication patterns. Often just one or two people account for the majority of communications. The rest remain crouched, waiting for news. In well-managed teams, communications are regular and predictable. It is a rule that you must take into account, because, I repeat once again, distance makes spontaneous communication difficult. This is not to say that it is more difficult to communicate in these types of environments. It simply has to be planned, and the leader is primarily responsible for that planning. It is not too difficult to plan a meeting agenda six months ahead, and stick to it. Do it!

Another cause of this necessary predictability is that team members have to be aware that everyone has to know when to be accessible and when to be inaccessible. Encourage digital disconnection and make sure no one wonders why someone had not responded to a message.

FOURTH.- Develop based on strengths, not weaknesses.

Just think about how performance appraisal normally works: Gaps between ideal and actual behaviors are identified, and feedback is given from time to time. Thanks to the feedback, the employee gets an idea of ​​where he is failing and then begins to think about making improvements. It's true that feedback sometimes covers strengths, but none of us escapes negative bias, or fidgeting with negative information, thoughts, emotions, and experiences tend to leave a more lasting impression on us. But the truth is that we almost always improve faster in those areas where we are strong than in those where we are weak.

Do not turn your team into a school classroom where the requirement is set according to the students less willing to learn. Because the most talented will get bored and end up looking for another school that better meets their expectations.

FIFTH.- Share and rotate power

I know this sounds strange. Pronounced hierarchies have been linked to lower job satisfaction and motivation. Also with the reduction of loyalty and an increase in stress and anxiety. In a hybrid work environment this is accentuated. And it is costly and ineffective ...

Not long ago I asked a person about the main difference between traditional work and the hybrid, distributed and project work we had created. And his answer was very illustrative: 'Before I managed teams where all the components depended hierarchically on me. She attended meetings where everyone depended on who called them. Now, less than 20% of the people on my project teams hierarchically depend on me and I attend meetings where the person calling them is not my boss, nor the boss of most of those who attend. Before I did few things many times, now I do many things rarely. ' I couldn't explain it better.

In a traditional workplace, teams are usually led by one person. But in a virtual environment, a centralized power structure is actually less effective. The power of high-trust teams actually changes between members depending on the stage of the project. Again it is a question of trust. Thus, you must assign responsibilities based on the specialty of the aspects to be managed, beyond the hierarchy. Don't forget to allow decisions to be made at the lowest possible level and above all, don't meddle. Remember that at the end of the day great leaders are not responsible for the work, they are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work.

Become Edward Teach.

Better known as Blackbeard. We generally associate pirates with violence, theft, and mayhem. Despite the legend, pirate ships during their golden age (17th century) managed their teams in surprising ways. They practiced a revolutionary form of democracy. To keep the ship running smoothly and discourage revolt, they elected their captain democratically. They limited their power and guaranteed crew members a voice in ship's affairs. The captain and the crew voted on all relevant aspects, where to go, who to rob, the fate of the prisoners... With enough votes, the crew could demote or even fire the captain.

Any pirate could make complaints or proposals without fear of retaliation, as the crew members were protected by the 'articles' - a kind of constitution drawn up for each ship. These ‘articles’ were formed democratically and required unanimous agreement. Saving the distances, it is not that far from what we advise now for the management of remote teams.

Relax and enjoy.

Remember: you are no longer responsible for the work, now you are responsible for the people who are responsible for the work. That means that when everything is good you have to give all the prominence to your team, but when everything goes wrong you have to take full responsibility. Is not easy. The trick is to practice every moment, every day. Leadership is a skill like any other. If you practice it every day, you will be a strong leader. If you stop practicing it, you become a weak leader.