“Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
Are you young (old) enough to get the reference to the song lyric above?
If you are, it is very likely that ‘work’ to you, consists of:
– getting up in the morning early
– putting on appropriate clothes to be seen in public
– going to a place (or places) with the view of doing a job, and
– going back home again in the evening.
In the near and far future, that will still be the case for a lot of roles. However, there will be a much larger number which can and will be done remotely, driven by necessity (Covid-19, a case in point), or opportunity (why pay premium cash for a city centre commutable office), or choice (lifestyle first approach).
So, whats the issue now?
I have been having some discussions recently around how companies are viewing being ‘forced’ to offer remote working. Combine this with people who previously were told their roles cannot be done remotely – suddenly being told different once Covid struck. Sound familiar?
This has been presented to me often as an ‘us vs them’ type situation. I know however, that it can be viewed differently by management, to the benefit of the company, teams, and managers.
This also has had the catalyst of diving home/remote workers into 3 broad categories, namely;
- those who can’t wait to get back to the ‘proper’ workplace;
- those who would be happy to hermit away and do their thing forevermore from their kitchen cupboard, or;
- those who would want a ‘bit of both’ ideally.
This genie is out of the bottle, and apart from the first cohort above, there will need to be a discussion in the workplace around how things should be.
“Nope, my team/company, my rules. “
Before I go into the benefits of having this discussion opened up NOW – not later, I want to quickly address the easiest answer a boss can give. Which is simply, ‘No’. It may have been necessary with shutdowns, but from now on, get back in here.
Assuming all the positions in question can be done remotely, the first step is to take time and address why this is important to you. (If you are a middle manager in a large corporate, it may be up to you to champion a case upline if you want to make a change). If, however, you just ‘like’ to see a full office of people working for you, then cool. You will need to be sure that key team members are not in the second or third groups above. If so, then you are unlikely to see any impact of your decision.
What has changed in 2020 however, is that for once, the almost global workforce has had an opportunity to pause, and take stock. They will have had chances to think of what they would like to see for themselves in the future. Many will be pondering their next moves.
Also, on the flip side – do you really want people left on your team who will just not think too far ahead, and just take whatever crap you throw at them because you happen to be writing a paycheck? That is a surefire way to the bottom.
So what instead?
Right now, at your NEXT team meeting, ASK THE QUESTION!
For the most part, the primary aim is to address the fear of discussing it formally, and how to start and progress the conversation in a constructive manner. If you have a now remote working team, you need to know in which of the 3 above buckets people fall into.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for helping people to live their best life, and to enable them to take a chance on following their dreams – but – from YOUR point of view, the immediate action of doing this is to work out how many key people fall into which category. If you have a team of 12, and 3 superstars are in the ‘I want to live in my kitchen and work’ category – you need to be able to support that going forward if you want to keep them. (Funny note, I used to have someone working on my team yonks ago who fit in here. He told me he loved to get out of bed around 8:50, pop on the kettle, basic grooming, etc., and then would be on a conference call for 9.00AM. Individual in question was (is) absolutely brilliant, and never skipped a beat. I presume in the current environment, he would need to get up at 8.45 and put on a shirt or something for a video call! )
Joking aside, it is people like my ex-colleague above who I am referring to when I say ‘superstar’. You know they know their stuff, are competent, bring fresh ideas and innovation, are the vanguard of the team. Basically you know they can do the job as well from Mars (which could be an option in the next 50 years) as easily as they can from their kitchen or home office.
The real issue (and we don’t hide behind it) is the middle group. The ones who you would not really be that concerned about if they leave you can ignore for the purpose of this bit. The people in the ‘middle’, as I put it are the backbone of your team. If a lot of these wish to work from home, especially if some have other interests, you could be forgiven for thinking they may not have your team’s best interests at heart.
“Oh Jenny, I see your Etsy shop has got a whole load of new content since you started remote working.”
So, does this (quite correct) concern mean you should not engage with your team about how the office may look once everything returns to the new normal? Short answer – No.
The basic issue at the route of worrying about allowing team members remote work is one of Trust. Nothing more, nothing less.
“What about ad-hoc conversations, training days, the water cooler insights?” – Nonsense. While there is a gap for allowing impromptu remote teamwork, training, all hands events etc can still take place in person if wished. New tools such as Slack, are helping bridge the gap also between insights and information. So, no, it is down to Trust.
If you have concerns about someone on your team who you fear may not be as good as they are when ‘policed’ in the office, the best thing is to have a conversation with them and air your concerns. (In a supportive way – not punitive.) If they are struggling, offer help.
If they are or have been disinterested, and disengaged already, why have you kept them around. (Seriously – it does reflect badly on you if you keep weaker team members who refuse help just because it is too much hassle to manage them). Sometimes there could be something else outside of work causing issues, in which case, if you can supportively engage.
But – and to get to the root of why this appears in a blog about LIFESTYLE BUSINESS, is that – for a lot of people, 2020 will have given them time to think about ‘What if’.
So, you, as the team manager have 2 options – ignore, or engage.
I am not going to discuss ignoring because if you have read this far (about 3 minutes reading time till now), then I assume you are wanting to dig further into this. Also, ignoring will just bring the usual phone call or conversation one day to say ‘Hey, Jenny is leaving to concentrate on her craft business’, and that will be that. There is a smarter way you can both help each other.
- Discuss. If someone on your team has a longer term plan that they want to do something else eventually (or as a sideline), discuss how you can help them!
- Reciprocate. If your boss is engaging with you as a person, and is willing to give you some leeway on things (split the difference). So, if you have a 2 hour commute there and back each day and you work from home most or some days – split the 2 hours. Give an extra one to the current job, and the other one to your sideline/nixer/fledgling Lifestyle business. (Yes, I am serious.) Giving an extra 4 or 5 hours a week to ‘da man/woman’? Yes. If they are working with you, you work with them.
- A lot of times a Lifestyle business will support a specific lifestyle, or ‘scratch an itch’, but may not be sustainable as your 100% pure income stream. So, this way of engaging with your current role helps satisfy both.
If you DO decide to split and go out on your own, it is always best to leave on AMAZING terms with your current employer if you can.
A) You may have an easy door to return to if things don’t work out.
B) You could – depending on what your new venture is – have access to a small market for your product or services.
C) Goodwill. When you are growing your new venture, you may find that you need references for certain types of contracts for example. Asking your ex-boss for a reference in these cases can help.
And what’s in it for me? (as the current boss)
A) You get someone who may already have their eye on the door – refocused.
B) Depending on their plans (and how honest you both are with each other), you have a timeline on when you need to find a replacement. Planning is key, and being able to bake in planned turnover is very useful.
C) You are not being a dick! It is swings and roundabouts, there may be a time in your own future you want to make a change, it is good to be participating in that culture of support – you may need it yourself someday.
So, for now – if you haven’t already – HAVE THE CONVERSATION with your team. How many have been having career and lifestyle rethinks over the past year? Find out, help, support and everyone wins!