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Northern Ireland

IoD NI Member Advice: Remote-Working, Darren Hodgson, ForwardFocused Consultancy Ltd

06 Apr 2020

“The financial crisis of 2007/2008 plunged the UK economy into the doldrums and shattered trust in business leaders.  High-profile leaders who had been publicly fêted were shamed.  Businesses that looked like world-beaters teetered on the brink of collapse, exposed as being built on false foundations, driven by skewed short-term priorities.” - Chartered Management Institute (2014)

As a business leader you may not be responsible or to blame for a crisis such as Coronavirus but how you respond, manage and perform is all on YOU.  As a result of COVID-19, many organisations have been forced to transition their workforce to work from home.  This can be a challenge as many businesses lack the policies, technology and training to secure a remote workforce.  In addition, the concept of working from home will be a whole new phenomenon to many employees and the concept will be very unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable for them.

Empowering a remote workforce is far from “business as usual”.  There are critical differences in overseeing normal business operations versus a remote option: communication, culture, duty of care and management must adjust.  Luckily, remote work has rapidly increased over the years and there are several methods to make remote work a success.

Common issues that many organisations are facing during the current hiatus are:

1. Workforce – duty of care, wellbeing, welfare, critical v non-critical
2. Operations – resilience, business continuity, risk assessment
3. Supply Chain – delays, impacts, risk assessment
4. Travel – restricted, delays, isolated employees – flight cancelations 
5. Decline in sales – cash flow, ‘what-if’, customer relations
6. Regulation – remain complaint, reputational risk

We’re naturally resistant to change – particularly forced change during times of uncertainty or crisis.  Leaders have to meet this reality head-on.  An all-hands approach to recognising the new reality is advised to empower everyone to contribute to the success of a remote model.

For companies with a strong in-office experience, its vital for leadership to recognise that the remote transition is a process, not a binary switch to be flipped.  Leaders are responsible for embracing this change, being open about what is and isn’t working, and messaging this to all employees.  Managing a remote company is like managing any company – it comes down to credence, conviction, communication and company-wide support of shared goals.

Five Steps for a Remote Workforce to Consider

1. Carve out a dedicated workspace (achieving focus)
2. Separate work from life (preventing burnout)
3. Don’t stop engaging with people (avoiding loneliness)
4. Respect the routine, but experiment with change (finding structure)
5. Roll with the changes (embracing iteration)

COVID-19 is not a one-off challenge, there will, I’m sure be additional phases to the current hiatus and there will be additional epidemics in the future.  One variable which is most predictive of eventual success is preparation and pre-emption.  Preparing for the next crisis (or the next phase of the current crisis) now is likely to be much more than an ad-hoc, reactive response when the crisis actually hits.

Darren Hodgson DBCI MSc
ForwardFocused Consultancy (NI) Limited

For more information, please contact the IoD NI Office on: 

028 9694 6740


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