Missing those Water Cooler Conversations? So does Leadership

Covid-19 continues to fundamentally change the way many organizations operate from a day-to-day perspective – interactions with peers, how tasks and work efforts are managed, and, of course, the work location.But the culture is also going to change if you are not careful. I did not give it much thought until a CIO posed this question during a Leaders Helping Leaders virtual collaboration session we hosted for IT executives.

I have since had the opportunity to reconvene with this group to delve deeper into the topic of how a company’s culture is affected by Covid-19 as well as share the findings from a recent poll conducted by Genesis10 on this very topic. The five-question poll was issued to 7,235 IT executives across the United States to understand the biggest cultural challenges of working remote, as well as to gain insight into how executives have adjusted their management style and communications tempo to elevate their team.

The concept of working remote or having teams work in a geographically dispersed delivery model is not new by any stretch, but what is different is that instead of 10% or 20% of your workforce working remote full-time, now virtually the entire workforce is working in a remote capacity indefinitely until the health crisis is under control. Three questions to consider as we chart the path forward:

  • How is working remote affecting informal conversations and the ability of a manager or executive to maintain a pulse on the organization?
  • Does a 100% remote work model level the playing field in the sense that no one is getting more face time?
  • Over time, how will productivity be impacted?

The Genesis10 poll finds that before the pandemic, less than 10% of the workforce was working from home. But, as executives plan for the future, they anticipate that more than 50% of the workforce will be working remotely.

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In speaking with Everest Group and Gartner, both analyst firms echo this workplace trend, indicating that employees will be seeking greater flexibility and options to work from home in some capacity—perhaps two days a week, for example — moving us into some sort of hybrid model with employees both working in the office and working remote.

Top of the list of conversation topics about the remote or hybrid work model is the impact on productivity. Yet, for the most, productivity has not been affected negatively. In fact, 68% of executives responding to an Everest Group poll indicated that there was a positive or neutral impact on their productivity.

But all in all, the ability to elevate and keep the team focused on priorities falls squarely on the executives’ shoulders to adjust their management approach, communication cadence and reinforce confidence with the team.

A useful technique that I have relied on for years is leveraging skip meetings, where you meet the resources that report directly to your direct reports. This is an effective way to maintain a pulse on the organization and create a sense of community. Another example shared by an executive is expressing gratitude to reaffirm your appreciation of the person and their contribution to the team.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of empathy, effective communications and employee engagement as critical avenues to maintaining a pulse on the organization and building a productive, healthy work environment and culture.

Ami Sarnowski

Ami Sarnowski
Ami Sarnowski is chief innovation officer of Genesis10.

Ami Sarnowski

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