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Embracing the change in psychology of working from home

To support our clients who are team and business leaders, Shoosmiths hosted a webinar on 2 June 2020 focusing on embracing the change in psychology of working from home as part of #TheNewHow.

Introduction

As the saying goes “when the wind blows, some people build walls, while others build windmills". We know that we’re facing a crisis unlike any other, but what’s been illustrated clearly is that a lot of our old assumptions on how we work can be challenged. We can be working smarter, faster, better. We want to emerge from lockdown with something positive to show for it: a new normal better than the old one. We need a new how.

On 2 June we hosted a webinar focusing on how the change in psychology around working from home will impact on #TheNewHow. The panel of speakers comprised Caroline White-Robinson, Head of Knowledge Management and Learning and Development - Shoosmiths, Jack Evans – Robertson Cooper and Sian Harrington – The People Space.
Below are our key tips and takeaways.

Is now the time for change?

  • Having had to rapidly adopt remote working and instigate quicker decision-making, the time is ripe for businesses to adopt new working practices.
  • While stability has been paramount, we are now moving in to the next stage – accelerating recovery. The third stage will be to consider what changed ways of working were successful and could benefit the business operations going forwards. It is important to keep this on the agenda.
  • Seize the opportunity to engage with employees and gather feedback (use polls/ surveys) to understand what has worked well and what has not worked to ensure that good practices  and new working ways are adopted going forwards.

68% of attendees believe that now is the time for change and 51% of attendees indicated they aim to keep more employees working from home.

Where does change originate from?

  • Change needs to be instigated at board level but is best achieved when there is collaboration with employees – two-way conversation is key.
  • Where remote working has been successful, employee expectation is likely to be for things to change.
  • In many instances the ‘here and now’ is not sustainable – use learnings from the current crisis to instigate better working ways.

What is required to initiate change?

  • To initiate and achieve change it is important to consider the mindset, culture and climate within the business.
  • Look at the vision for your business to help shape where new working practices can be adopted.
  • Change will be easier to achieve where the business places trust and autonomy in the hands of its employees.
  • Note the same approach may not be appropriate for the whole business, by undertaking employee surveys and inviting employee engagement about the implementation of changes will ensure the continued success of any change and whether this needs to be tailored to specific areas of the business.

How do you address anxiety about returning to work?

  • Gathering employee intelligence is key – you need to ascertain what the cause of the anxiety for each individual is – take a personalised approach.
  • Based on any employee assessments made, consider phasing the return to work in a way to allow those ready to return to work to return first, learning and adapting from this experience to ensure everything is in place where those more anxious about returning to work finally return.
  • Issue clear communications about steps taken to ensure a safe return to work as a lack of information and direction can contribute to anxiety.
  • Provide training and support to line managers to ensure they know how to deal effectively with employee anxieties whilst understanding that line managers may themselves be managing their own anxieties as well as those of the employees they are responsible for.

63% of attendees have increased their focus on mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.

How do you manage employee’s productivity?

  • Consider how you measure productivity – hours spent working or outputs (reaching sales targets etc)?
  • How are you communicating to your employees what productivity looks like? Ensure that this is clear and achievable.
  • If you are able to trust your employees and give them more autonomy – presenteeism should not be an issue.
  • There are many new technologies emerging to monitor employee productivity remotely - but businesses should consider to what extent these align with their brand/culture before implementing.

Key takeaways:

  • Adopt a personalised approach to make sure that any measures you adopt are right for the individuals within your organisation -  acknowledging there is no ‘one size fits all’.
  • Change is best achieved through two-way conversation - from the bottom up and from the top down.
  • Clear communications on the steps being taken to achieve a safe return to work should help to alleviate employee anxiety.
  • Employee well-being is not a tick box exercise and businesses need to ensure that they are living and breathing what they put in place.
  • Assessing productivity using output-based results will aid the move to more flexible and agile working and employee trust is key.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

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