Go back to the office?

Lately, multiple reports and opinion articles have appeared on the phenomenon of returning to the office, taking advantage of the favorable evolution of the vaccination process.

In this sense, the predictions that resulted from the survey that McKinsey Global Institute carried out in February this year on the Future of Work after COVID-19 are being fulfilled. After the exodus to the homes of March 2020, a part of the workers will not return to the previous situation.

Thus, many companies are going to have to manage new work models. As I wrote in my article ‘How to build a hybrid work strategy’, to address this type of transformation, it is important to have a purpose, a strategy and a method. But it is just as important to have a change management plan that serves to make the ‘cultural adjustments’ that allow its peaceful assumption by working people.

The force of resistance.

Many projects on new ways of working fail because their authors do not take into account resistance to change. Humans, by nature, find it difficult to get out of our comfort zone. It is not possible to drive a change with just a PowerPoint presentation. Those who do so stay on the surface. And on the surface of organizations, as in the sea, you only see a part of the whole, precisely that part that is closest to you. But if you dive in, you can see the real company. The one where the teams move harmoniously, like schools of fish. People, like those schools of fish, act gregariously to defend themselves against changes, because they perceive these changes as threatening predators.

Therefore, it is critical to keep in mind that your action -your project- is going to have a reaction in the opposite direction of the same intensity. Pure physics. Below I am going to list some of the main causes why your project can fail. I advise you to take them into account when activating your change management strategy.

Insufficient followers.

Many HR projects are unsuccessful due to a deficit in the implementation methodology. It is curious how some companies spend great efforts to promote the implementation of new products or services for customers and at the same time understand that the products for employees are going to be assumed by them without more. That they will ‘buy’ them regardless of the perceived value, the customer experience or the price they have to pay.

As I mentioned in my article ‘Human Resources in the face of cultural transformation’, it is essential to handle the theory of the diffusion of innovations by Everett Rogers, by identifying the early adopters -early adopters- who are going to drive change. The talent map of your organization should include this figure. Because only when your change project has a minimum market penetration of 15%, will you be able to say that you have found the path to success.

Leaders don’t want to change.

The most recurrent phrase of those leaders with strong resistance to change in the ways of working is: people telecommuting are less productive. It is an argument widely used by telework deniers. The problem is that when you ask them about evidence that values ​​the claim, you don’t get them out of statements based on the performance of isolated people. These statements usually carry a derivative: the real problem is not the worker’s performance. Rather, it is the leader’s way of leading. Many companies have to understand that if they want to have agile, collaborative employees with good technological skills, they cannot have bureaucratic leaders, individualists or with analogical behaviors.

To try to have the proactive and positive participation of your leaders, you will need two basic tools: communication and training. Regarding the first, I recommend that you implement a continuous feedback methodology between the teams. This model must combine a process of collective feedback (in the manner of OKR -objectives and key results) and individual feedback (which I already addressed in the article ‘The Art of Continuing Feedback’). On the other hand, the competencies required to lead remote teams are slightly different. Feel free to allocate a portion of the budget to train your leaders in this regard.

The state of opinion against the change.

One of the most difficult problems to tackle in the management of a project occurs when at a given moment a state of opinion is triggered against it. If you have made an adequate risk assessment in the analysis phase, the problem may come from what I call a ‘management model’ by anecdotes’ or ” management model by hoaxes’ ‘. The first model occurs when the performance of a minority is elevated to the category of norm (for example, ‘people teleworking are less productive than in the office’). The second is when a fiction is directly turned into reality (for example, ‘when you call a teleworker to a face-to-face meeting, he does not attend’ and it turns out that in a pandemic this has never occurred).

The tool to combat a state of opinion is called data management (people analytic, if you are from HR). Very often I find that in the manifestation of that state of opinion the word ‘sensation’ is pronounced. To combat it, your hybrid work management model needs indicators. I am not referring to something very complicated but to a dashboard for monitoring and managing the model. There are methodologies that can help you build a useful dashboard to manage new ways of working.

The technology is not adequate.

Technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the implementation of a hybrid work strategy. It is the main facilitating factor of teleworking. It allows us to communicate and cooperate.

So that technology does not pose a brake on the implementation of new ways of working in your company, it is essential that you carry out a prior self-diagnosis, from the user (and customer) experience. Pay attention to a few questions:

  • Do we have a collaborative office automation system that allows me to unlink performance and presence?
  • Can we answer phone calls remotely efficiently?
  • Are our core applications ready for remote operation?
  • Do we have the systems ready to face cyber risks derived from teleworking?
  • Do our employees have levels of connectivity at home that allow them to operate remotely?
  • Have we designed a suitable device deployment policy?

These and other questions should provoke a debate prior to any introduction of hybrid work.

Employee well-being.

To finish. It is important that you bear in mind that remote work involves a new way of working. Working people should receive the support of the management committee. Techno-stress is a real threat and corporate occupational health standards will need to adapt. but that, perhaps, already gives for another article …

Author: Ricardo Alfaro Puig

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