Home office - The Day After
A unique, unprecedented state of emergency changes with hesitant steps into something that seems halfway normal to us. It is clear to both the entrepreneur and the employee that everything will never be the same either sooner or later. Nothing can deprive us of the experiences of the last few weeks and nothing the obligation to take into account and apply what we have necessarily and unforeseenly learned in the future. Orientation towards results and personal responsibility, new KPIs and Zoom or WhatsApp instead of a meeting table, that’s just the beginning.
Home office – everything is normal
Many companies were de facto forced “overnight” to give up a culture of presence that had always been practiced. And it worked. According to recent surveys 70% of companies want to keep their home office at least partially. A situation that was initially a state of emergency for most will now become part of everyday life for many in the future.
The cooperation between physically present employees and those in the home office raises many questions and requires new rules to be agreed:
Working hours are a central point
The already common model of core working hours has also been shown to be highly recommendable and practicable in a modified form in the home office model. Accessibility and process flows can therefore be easily planned and foreseen for everyone involved.
How can you keep all team members up to date ? One possibility, based on the SCRUM methodology, is regular morning meetings (“Daily Standups”): start the working day “officially” together, briefly exchange news and summarize the key points of the day.
At what intervals will we communicate in the future – and how? Especially when some of the colleagues are physically in the office and others in the home office? Virtual communication via Skype or video calls via WhatsApp, which were already established in the private sector, have definitely also arrived in the business sector. And they will stay. Even if part of the team returns to the familiar working environment, communication will remain virtual – if only because of the distance rules and because meeting rooms are not large enough, and because some of the colleagues are still – or permanently – in the home office. Later, when the distance rules are no longer that strict, hybrid forms will also establish themselves, where part of the team sits in a video conference room and the colleagues from the home office are connected.
In any case, the know-how for virtual communication has grown rapidly in general, but it remains a challenge to secure this knowledge, to develop it further and to make it “suitable for everyday use”.
Results count, not presence
The culture of presence mentioned at the beginning appears to be convenient and efficient for monitoring work performance: one look at the workplace is enough and the manager knows that work is in progress – right? Probably only partly true, because pure physical presence does not necessarily mean productivity. The premise “presence = performance” was abruptly ended with Corona. Instead, the focus shifted to results. This is nothing fundamentally new and partly even before the Corona level of performance measurement. Now this view is probably everywhere.
Many employers are faced with the next question: Which key figures (KPIs) make sense for us to measure performance? Attendance hours will probably no longer be there – at least now. Performance hours and turnover have also been common up to now, more progressive measurements also include subject-specific “costs per (produced) unit”, i.e. in recruiting about “cost per hire”. More creative approaches go to relations, for example “lead to customer” or “conversion rates”. Basically behind every KPI definition there is the question of the goal: What is the goal of the respective position? How do I know that this goal has been achieved? A lot of KPIs can be determined creatively from this.
Personal responsibility increases
A focus on results inevitably increases personal responsibility – not least because the short route to superiors is not possible for employees who are left to their own devices in the home office. This means that they are required to make decisions on their own responsibility. This leads to pragmatic, quickly effective solutions.
It becomes exciting when it comes to bringing these different paths back together in a meaningful way: How is the consensus established? Is a single approach taken and implemented for everyone, or is something better worked out together? A question that management and owners should ask themselves with external support: How do we continue this lived personal responsibility without having to delegate back again? How is this cultural change secured? How do companies use the potential that employees have demonstrated in the future?
Innovations and creative processes
Employees show great potential for solving problems for sudden, short-term challenges. Long-term, in-depth innovation, however, requires personal communication and mutual inspiration. The innovation value of a – also virtual – coffee exchange has therefore only really become apparent to many in the Corona isolation.
On the other hand, it has now become clear that there are many opportunities for constructive exchange in virtual space. Countless tools are available with which employees can work creatively and in an inspiring way. New platforms and virtual tools have led to surprising, inventive and innovative solutions in many companies.
In order to use creativity further and in a targeted manner, it is advisable to experiment with new methods with the involvement of experts. This can also take place on a low-threshold basis in (online) workshops, where work on and with creative processes, models and tools and the necessary know-how is passed on.
The key questions are: What has changed for us? Which strengths have proven particularly effective? What trends do we see? What does all of this mean for our vision? Results can be extremely diverse: from an expansion of the offer, the digitization of sales channels to completely new business areas.
Conclusion and outlook
Much valuable was created during the lock-down, traditional patterns of thought and action were broken. Companies suddenly had to deal with topics that were previously “irrelevant” or perhaps even a “no-go”.
Now it is important to secure what has been created, to bring it into line with current and established processes, and to develop it further. Carefully set up and professionally supported, these transformations ensure that companies remain economically successful and remain attractive employers.
Author: Mag. (FH) Norbert Etz