6 Actions for the Sustainable Launch of the new workplace model.

Companies around the world have notched nearly a year of remote operations in their proverbial belts. With that experience behind them, employers and employees alike are all asking, “what now?”

Employees have enjoyed the benefits that come hand-in-hand with the remote experience. Including, increased flexibility and balanced schedules. They’ve also faced challenges like lack of infrastructure and poor connectivity, less than ideal ergonomics, isolation, and burnout.

Many employers are eager to return to offices and get things back to the way they were. Others have jumped feet-first, embracing the innovation and change that this past year brought. Some are enjoying increased productivity and employee engagement. All are searching for ways to remain competitive in both the talent and consumer marketplace in 2021.

Although the past year has marked historical change in the way we do business and how much of the worldwide labor force does its work, there is still a need to look towards the new workplace. What will the next twelve months look like? The next five years? Beyond that? 

How can companies evaluate their readiness for sustainability in the world of a flexible new workplace? Leaders should consider the following steps when trying to make these big decisions.

Research the adoption landscape

While true innovators resist looking at other companies as a model, they also see the value in learning from other’s mistakes. This is a time when just about everything is an experiment. While reinventing the wheel might seem exciting, there’s plenty to gain from taking a look around. Do some deep market research to better understand today’s adoption landscape and ask yourself these questions: 

  • What models of flexible innovation are you seeing within your industry?
  • Is there a trend towards hybrid structures, or are most of your competitors embracing a 100% remote approach?
  • Are some trading one large HQ for smaller satellite offices and offering greater flexibility?
  • Are there any examples that seem to be more viable than others for your unique business needs?

Action: Make a shortlist of flexible working models that you’re observing and organize them by order of relevance for your company.

Analyze operations for virtual compatibility

Not every organization is created equally. Not every business can or should follow in the footsteps of tech innovators like Gitlab or Automattic, nor should they avoid the future of the workplace conversation. Identifying how compatible your business is with virtual operations is the next critical step. You’ll want to think about things like location dependencies for all roles across the business, client needs, product delivery, and more. Consider working with an unbiased third party to help your team differentiate between perceived blockers to remote operations and real reasons to retain more physical structure. 

Action: Find an experienced mentor or consultant to help identify the extent of remote working opportunities for your company.

Listen to the people

One major pitfall is for a small cross-section of leaders to decide on where the company is heading before asking team members. You may be surprised at what you learn from listening to individual contributors. What has their experience been like through the course of this past year? What do they want more or less of? Whether through a survey or series of focus group interviews, or both, collecting this data is an absolute must to make an informed, people-first decision. If you haven’t already done this, don’t take another step.

Action: Design a survey and interview canvas to capture critical data from your team.

Choose your model

Now that you’ve done your research, both internally and externally, it’s time to decide on what working model your organization is going to embrace for the future. Do you see your company as a 100% Remote team, Flexible Hybrid, Hub and Spoke, Departmental Hybrid, or something else entirely? It’s time to focus on which one makes the most sense and stick with it.

Action: Make a pros and cons list of your top 3 models from step one to help zero in on the right choice for your team. 

Define policy terms for your new workplace

If you don’t have a remote/telework policy at present, then hit the pause button again. You need to ensure you have a clearly defined policy that checks these boxes at a very minimum. Once you have that in place, identify what the specific terms will be for your newly proposed operational structure. You’ll need to identify things like, how often are people going to be on-site? Do team members have dedicated working spaces, or are they now shared? Who pays for hardware and home office setups, and how much is the limit? And the list goes on…

Action: Dust off the telework policy and update the terms to reflect a new, sustainable way of working. 

Plan your communication strategy

Now that you’ve done your research, chosen a model, and updated the policies that will govern your new workplace, it’s time to make the big announcement. How this is done is of critical importance. Your team needs to know that you heard them. They’ve impacted the decision through their survey and interview responses. What is the tone and energy of this announcement? Does it match the culture of your organization? What is the format of the communication? Is it a one-time announcement, or a series of celebrations?

Action: Design an engaging strategy to usher in the future of the workplace at your company. Get the guidance of a remote work expert to maximize employee engagement and experience.

No matter the size, industry, or location of your team, sooner than later, you’ll have to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?” Taking a careful and comprehensive approach will set your team up for success no matter what your new workplace looks like.

Lance Robbins, Consulting Director of Distribute

Lance has more than 10 years of operational leadership focused on workforce scaling, growth, and management. He has led distributed teams of up to 300 people spread across the rural Southeastern U.S. He has engaged with both state and federal regulatory agencies. Lance has also served as a talent acquisition contractor and advisor to leading remote tech brands. Lance believes that creating virtual work opportunities is the catalyst for realizing its power for positive change.