Graham Andrewartha | Director | MCA group

Work from home culture: the continuing workplace issue

Covid has forced the concept of work from home, to shift from an isolated and tolerated option, into a instant widespread reality. Reaction to isolation and fear of the pandemic, initially kept us trapped in our homes.

Remote work is a continuing puzzle/grievance/debate.  It is an irritating rash that will spread and take over the organisational culture if it is not treated appropriately. Working from home is like a new type of puzzle; it looks simple enough on the surface, but as you try to solve it, you find that it is a complex problem with many unique pieces that must be connected in order for it to be successful. Even now, very few organisations are treating the condition of ‘work from home’, properly.

A Hybrid Workplace is a big change

Suddenly employers were thrust into a transformational work place change which affected every business all at once. Their employees needed new and even more clever forms of communication to handle their concerns. Trust became more crucial than ever.  Change strategies which were previously effective, were not appropriate. By and large most employers responded by adopting the previous mindset of handling workplace change. The scope of the change, the long lasting impact, and the reality of the new way of work was not understood as a game changer.

But, hey, after a while, we loved it! We discovered our families again, we became more rested, we lost the dreadful commute, and incredibly, we were more productive.

I was coaching Stan, a senior Director, during this time. After he got over the shock of isolation, he was delighted to be able to work from home; no more long and tiring commutes, the flexibility of creating his own working schedule.  But soon enough he realised this wouldn’t cut it with his boss, who preferred people to be in the office working together as a team.  Some of his team quit. Stan got creative: he started scheduling more planned remote meeting times and made check-ins multiple times throughout the day with his boss. A year later this is still working, but the tension and regular reviews of this approach still erupt from time to time.

How to make work from home work

Employers need to consider the potential effects on employee morale, communication and collaboration, as well as how to maintain an effective organisational culture while having a distributed workforce.

What is has done is produce a lot of work for authors. There are 100’s of books on this topic; a few are worth reading. HBR has their Guide to Remote Work, where they tell you how to ‘Get your best work done, no matter where you do it.’  Then there is the book, Remote Work, by Will Gant, where amongst many other things he ‘Debunks every myth about working remotely and ways you can counter every objection.’  So it’s popular. Crucially it needs to dovetail with the organisational culture.

How to keep company culture alive while working from home

Elsewhere, we have discussed the foundational importance of organisational culture. This is even more significant with remote working arrangements. Management and staff need to collectively design WFH strategies that reinforce not, clash, with the culture. There are proven benefits of allowing employees to work remotely; before Covid, and now with Covid.

Remote work acknowledges the needs of many employees and recognises individuality. A surprise for many, is that employees are more productive, more engaged, spend less time commuting and reduce their stress levels. Some of the disadvantages concern how managers motivate remote workers, keep up effective communication, and remain true to the policies and procedures.

Ultimately  under all conditions, an organisation should ensure that employees are in the right roles for their skill sets and experience levels.

            If you would like to have a free consultation about strategies for work from home,  call or email us on 1300 856 480 or