Because of the disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were unexpectedly exposed to various work setups and transitions. To keep businesses afloat, many employees forcibly tried remote work for the first time. Skeletal manning, telecommuting, hybrid — many new work models have been implemented, and they are here to stay.
In fact, from the survey done by Slack (2020), 9000 workers in 6 countries revealed that a hybrid remote work environment is preferred by 72% of the respondents. This makes it highly likely to be implemented in the post-pandemic world. Indeed, work flexibility is becoming the new thing, and this only means that others would need to adapt to a new way of working all over again. But how can a remote leader spearhead change from a distance? Here are a few steps to get it done:
1. Plan meticulously and ahead.
It will always be easy to think of what can be changed, but many leaders get overwhelmed with the idea and jump into the process right away. Such a move is a mistake not worth making. Before implementing a change, regardless of its complexity and size, always ensure a detailed strategic plan that covers what, how, when, and why the change should be made. It is always important to know what your intended outcomes are and prepare for unforeseen events or challenges so you are also equipped with ways to resolve them. You want to develop a timeline or a Gantt chart to smoothen the entire process. Remote work leaders lean onto project management software to aid them in achieving change and departmental goals despite given constraints.
2. Be straightforward but rational.
One of the stumbling blocks in organizational change is that many leaders often build a barricade between themselves and the employees to maintain confidentiality regarding plans and strategies. However, this approach can be a ticking timebomb on its own, especially when the change is unknown by many and is a major one. Everyone will not be comfortable and submissive to the change needed when they are not mentally conditioned to prepare for it. Partial openness with the bits and pieces leaders can share will contribute to the employees’ acceptance and understanding of the proposed change. But constantly remind them that the plans are still a work in progress. Employees appreciate honesty and, through that, build mutual trust. Skip the make-believes, sugarcoating, and extra optimism.
3. Create a blueprint.
Remote employees do their job functions usually based on set targets and goals every week or month. Creating a blueprint will let them understand where the entire organization is currently and the direction everyone is supposed to be going. It should include a specific list that can be their guide as to what you expect from them.
4. Organize an education brigade or training.
Provision of training and other educational events that can equip with the capacity to achieve the intended change can expedite the entire process. They will boost their self-confidence and knowledge through virtual meetings, which can assist them once the first day of change commences. Many would restrain themselves from simply from lack of skills and understanding, so training, webinars, and conferences would be a great help in the roadway to change.
5. Elicit responses and participation.
Employees’ suggestions and feedback are sometimes turned a blind eye because leaders do not want to overwhelm themselves with complaints. However, this is a positive strategy so, your employees do not suppress their emotions and insights. Giving them a space in your communication channel to air out their concerns will forge emotional debottlenecking and employee engagement.
6. Do not get your hopes high.
While everyone is slowly beginning to adopt a new environment, expect that you may still encounter some oversights despite tedious planning and preparation. It is normal. Accept that change does not happen overnight, and pressuring your employees will only do more harm than good in their mental wellbeing — especially in the remote work setup where everyone works from a distance and does not have a seatmate who they can lean onto. Give your employees the chance to acclimatize to a new way of doing things and be patient about it. Attend to their needs and address their concerns by establishing a committee that will take immediate action.
7. Project a realistic kind of leadership.
Set your ideals aside and be realistic. You may not see how everyone immediately reacts to bad news but be kind enough to know that not all change will be easy for everyone. Be the kind of leader who will make resolutions based on the situation preceding. Oversee, evaluate and measure any progress and celebrate small successes. In a remote work environment lacking the physical aspect of communication, it is essential to appreciate small things as your stepping stone in encouraging them to do bigger things.