The move towards flexible working is posing some very different challenges on business leaders in terms of how they motivate, support and inspire their workforce. With more people working remotely more of the time, it can be difficult for senior managers to connect with their teams, talk to them face to face, and give them the help and advice they need.
However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible. Delivering great leadership in a changing world of work does require a different mindset, but with the help of the technological resources at your disposal, it can be successfully achieved.
This eBook takes a more detailed look at how you can support learning and innovation in the current climate, but to begin with, there are four main areas to consider:
1. Learning platforms
It can sometimes feel that putting employees on to learning and development programmes is a distraction that uses up valuable time that they could be spending on their core tasks. But that would be to understate its usefulness: a study by LinkedIn and Bersin has found that employees who learn at work are 47 percent less likely to be stressed and 39 percent more likely to feel productive.
When everyone is working from the office all the time, it’s easy to bring people together for courses, meetings and seminars that support their personal development. It’s also easier to hold progress meetings where this development can be monitored and measured, in order to help keep employees on the right track. Doing this under a flexible working model, however, requires a different approach.
Employees working from home lack the face-to-face contact and on-the-job experience that can be so useful to the learning process. The best responders to this issue have tried to replicate these experiences as much as possible: for example, allowing junior employees to listen into senior client calls to see how they work, or even using virtual and augmented reality to recreate in-person learning.
Technology is proving to be a huge benefit in bridging the gap between remote workers and the educational contact they need.
2. Forums for innovation
Most companies need to innovate in order to stay ahead of the competition and protect their profitability, but this innovation can only come from organic contact. That is to say that a scheduled Microsoft Teams or Zoom call, where employees are invited to contribute new ideas, is too artificial and hinders the free thinking and creativity that real innovation comes from.
Innovation needs collaboration between employees, and a level of trust and interaction that can only be built through face-to-face contact. While technology such as AI or virtual reality can help in this area, it may not be financially practical for companies to adopt them. A more cost-effective alternative is to use the days when flexible workers do come into the office as a chance for them to come together, build stronger bonds and exchange ideas. Encouraging employees to come into the office a certain number of days each week can play a major part in supporting this.
3. Workspace scheduling
Adapting workspace layouts, and changing how those spaces are used, booked and managed, can play a more important part in supporting and leading flexible workers than you might think. Employees want to know that, on the days when they come into the office, that they can reliably access the workstations or meeting rooms they need, be able to easily collaborate with co-workers, and can plan ahead to maximize their productivity on those days.
A workspace scheduling software can address all these tasks in a way that is both transparent and user-friendly. Before they even start their commute, employees can search and book the workspaces they need for whenever they need them, and can search for particular locations that are close to specific co-workers. These functions can be conducted through the web, a mobile app or from within the employee’s Microsoft Outlook schedule, so that employees can easily coordinate their days, and feel that working from the office is still of value to them.
Every business is facing its own fair share of challenges, as the shape of the long-term, post-pandemic world of work becomes clearer. Employees need very different kinds of support to what they may have needed before, across how they work, where, when and with whom. A combination of strong, communicative leadership and an intelligent use of technology can give them the vital backing they crave.