The buzz around the words “remote work” has become a lot more prominent after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our previous understandings of “normal.” The world has, however, been moving towards remote work for already some time. Are business leaders ready to rise to the occasion and leverage this challenge? You bet they are.
There has been a strong tie to the roots of the industrial revolution. “I need you on the line.” “9-5 is our day.” “I need you in the office.” “I have to see you to know you are really working.” This tie to history was shifting but still not embraced. COVID-19 changed this trend, with a lot of resistance and opposition. Until…
The trends of working remotely have shown more success than anticipated. Increased productivity, higher levels of morale, focus on personal and professional goals to benefit more individuals and organisations, and wider market visibility have led leaders of all types and in all industries to recognise that advancing remote is an asset, not a liability.
While we do see attempts to return to the office, many business leaders around the world are recognising the value of remote work. We will never be away from the office permanently, we are social beings. We will, however, take advantage of the unlimited opportunities that remote work can provide.
Overcoming the Real Obstacle of Remote Work
The struggles of remote work are present and real. Those struggles also present immense opportunity. Let’s start with the first of the struggles. The number of self-help articles on “Tips for working from home” represent how often these struggles are expressed as personal ones – ranging from motivation to the creation of personal routines. It is true that with such a transition, personal struggles and adjustments will definitely play a big role.
Nonetheless, when it comes specifically to remote work and its impact on the company, we should actually start from the company perspective. If employees are struggling to get their work done effectively, if team productivity is taking a hit or if “company culture” is seemingly no longer existent – the problem is that the company has not yet become a mature remote business.
The idea that your company can progress as a remote business illustrates that after overcoming the initial struggles, you can seize a whole new world of opportunity. This brings us to the benefits. Becoming a company that acknowledges the value of remote work illustrates a degree of flexibility that is crucial in surviving the unpredictable turns that the modern world presents. Even outside times of crisis, we are operating in an extremely fast-changing environment. Being ready to accommodate different employee needs and changing circumstances, adds to the success of a modern business.
Assessing Your Remote Business Maturity
So, how do we go about increasing remote business maturity? This can be operationalised in the Remote Business Design model, which illustrates how businesses evolve.
This model helps assess a company's stage of remote readiness. It also provides a basis for your business to progress through the five levels from physical manifestation to a virtual organisation, outperforming traditional businesses. The further your business goes on the remote maturity stages, the more important cybercapacity – comprising cybersecurity and privacy - becomes.
Depending on the digital maturity and available resources, many vacancies, which have traditionally required a physical presence, are also innovating. It appears that in the future, physiotherapists can, for example, benefit from physiorobots for the initial mobilisation of patients. Or hotel check-in staff can benefit from self-check-in or even welcoming robotic creatures to replace their physical presence. The world is indeed changing, but for now, our focus remains mainly on the companies, for which going fully remote is already a possibility.
Leading Successfully in the Remote World
Synergistic leadership is invaluable with the remote work environment, and the Remote Business Design Model. Leaders build influential relationships working toward goals and objectives, sharing purpose, and creating value. Successful leaders understand that leadership focuses on understanding the synergy of the organisation. All of the moving parts of the organisation play a key role in the success and growth of an organisation.
All of us are more familiar with this leadership model in the face-to-face environment. In the remote environment, this approach does not change. The modes of operating do and without changing our lens of the working environment, this is where remote leadership can be difficult. The Synergistic Leadership Model can help frame how you want to work remotely. More rewarding, it focuses on relationship building and growth, individually and organisationally.
The Remote Business Design Model and Synergistic Leadership Model complement one another and equip business leaders with the tools to analyse their current state of remote readiness and provide direction for how to facilitate the transformation.
Exploring the Remote Business Design Model
Stage 1 - Ignore: The basic level is where many companies were when they were forced to go remote – business leaders were resistant to remote trends due to a lack of trust and digital capacity.
Stage 2 - Unfreeze: The second stage reflects the events following the initial shift to remote in March 2020. Companies accepted that work is going to happen at home for the foreseeable future, yet denied that this means deeper structural changes. Adoption of tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams was carried out, but everyone had to be virtually present during all traditional “work hours” and employees’ working days were often full of interruptions.
Stage 3 - Experiment: Stage 3 is where companies recognise that their current state is an unproductive replication of the physical environment and that effort should be put into better adjusting to the new circumstances. At this stage, changes are nonetheless random and fragmented.
Stage 4 - Align: Stage 4 is when the beneficial results of those early investments start to appear. This stage is a crucial one. It can be characterised by changes such as:
All in all, this is when the truly diverse team feels included and valued.
Stage 5 - Actualise & Maintain Momentum: At the final stage, your business processes are fully digitalised. Your team’s cybercapacity is fluent. They collaborate remotely with ease. Everyone in your company has time for wellness and mental health. When your people bring their highest levels of creativity and presence to deliver the best work, they delight your clients. Maintaining this momentum requires continuous renewal and review of the flow of your business processes.
Exploring the Synergistic Leadership Model
Leadership is an influence-based relationship that seeks change and growth with shared purpose and values among all stakeholders. The synergic leadership model builds on this by strengthening the interaction of all of the parts of the organisation. There are five stages to our Synergistic Leadership Model:
Stage 1: Unknown
Change is a constant in our organisations. The unknown is the need, want, and excitement for this change. Sometimes this unknown is forced. Even forced, it is an opportunity for improvement and growth.
Stage 2: Expectations
Unknowns lead to ideas, strategy, task, and more. The next step is to make our unknowns clear and set a strategic direction. Understanding the vision, strategy, and expectations of our needs, wants, and desires will ensure we journey in the right direction.
Stage 3 - Performance
It is time to perform. Making our expectations a reality takes an operational approach with a little sprinkling of excitement and energy. It is vital that we obtain and effectively manage the resources we need to meet our expectations. Our resources include everything from people who can help, the tools and materials to do the work, the financing, and an attitude of change.
Stage 4 - Consideration
Once we are in full operating mode, it is vital to measure the progress toward our strategic goals and objectives. Many organizations call these measurements. The Strategic Leadership Model calls it, “How are we doing?”
It is a question that focuses on data, but also the human element. It is vital to know the numbers and the stories behind those numbers.
Stage 5 - Honour
We must celebrate successes, even small wins. The work we do is hard and rewarding, and we reward ourselves with a celebration. It is also vital to honor your losses. Our losses are learning experiences. As hard as those losses can be, there is a lesson in the experience. Celebrate that experience too.
Finally, no leadership model can exist without communication and compassion. Both of these elements hug these five stages and ensure they are nurtured for growth.
Living, Breathing, Evolving Online
The Remote Business Design Model and the Synergistic Leadership Model do not end with maturity. Cybercapacity and Honour are the most important of all the stages. Strong foundations are built, and great entrepreneurs and leaders recognise that these foundations and processes require continuous renewal. Being successful remotely requires a solid business design, cybersavvy, and synergistic leadership. Your business is living, breathing, and always evolving.
If you are interested in exploring how the models can specifically benefit your business, get in touch! We would be delighted to help you leverage the outstanding opportunity of remote work.
Digital transformation strategist | Privacy advisor | Cyber anthropologist | Author