"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."- Ernest Hemingway
No matter where you live or work, you are either already working@home (W@H) or probably will be very soon (check out this great piece to learn what w@H means in these unprecedented times). We are all in the same boat (not literally the same boat as we're all self-isolating!) in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. Not too long ago, W@H was a privilege for few, but suddenly it has become a necessity for everyone. We are all on board with the idea that working at home is a way to minimize the spread of virus. As with anything in life, for some companies W@H will work, for some it won't.
The underlying issue with W@H is mistrust: Who knows whether you are actually working at home or enjoying a day off? It's dwelling on the thought that makes it a problem, not the thought itself. This is mainly due to companies' inability to measure employees' output and work efficiency at home. It doesn't mean companies want to track your every toilet break, the time you spend with your family members during the working day, what you eat, etc., but they do need to track measurable outputs for set business goals.
This forced W@H trend in the wake of the ongoing corona outbreak presents companies with an opportunity to redefine trust with employees. Companies can clearly define give for employees, both in quantitative and qualitative forms: number of hours clocked, productivity achieved, outcomes met. And in return, also define what employees will get in addition to their salary. Will they get recognized and awarded for mastering the art of W@H? Will they be allowed to engage in more meaningful work virtually and select working hours per their choice (starting work at 11 PM instead of 9 AM)? We call this the give-to-get ratio for W@H, and managing this trade-off transparently is essential for trust. The key is to keep people motivated while working at home, which can't always be measured in numbers. If they remain motivated, most, if not all, employees will work to the best of their abilities, regardless of whether they are at home or in the office.
The ability to remain competitive during challenging times requires making the best use of individual talents. There are tangible business benefits for shift — as per one study, remote workers are healthier, taking fewer sick days- contributing to 13% higher output. Prioritizing people requires changing the management culture, which is still hierarchical and authoritarian in many organizations.
There will be plenty of learning for companies from the ongoing W@H phenomenon and hopefully, it will encourage them to shift from being reactive to adopting proactive flexible policies for remote working, supported by the right tools. When handled properly, W@H should be celebrated and not seen as a last resort in unwanted situations. For this to happen, companies must develop the give-to-get trust ratio with employees by empowering them to improve their lives and, ultimately, the business. It's time to lose the command-and-control mindset and instill trust for W@H.