Leadership in a WFH world

This is one of the first books on the subject of work from home / remote work and what it means for the individual, for leading and high performance teams. Citrin and DeRosa work with Spencer Stuart and DeRosa has been studying distance work for 20 years, starting with AT&T in 2000.

The pandemic and WFH (working from home) have brought out the best in employees. This once-a-century event has got American employees to dedicate more than 22 million additional hours of work.

At the peak of August 2020, 80% of employees worked remotely. Women had to balance both home and work and ended up devoting 20 hours a week to doing household chores.

A new reality

The authors say remote work is here to stay and the proportion may vary by company and country. WFH has been enabled by the rapid spread of technology and globalization. Virtual work has made virtual leadership a new reality.

Virtual leadership had to deal with some significant changes: (1) change in business models as consumers switched to digitalization; (2) an exhaustion of employees due to too many video calls; (3) there is very little separation between work and home when employees work from home; and (4) women have lost jobs four times more than men in the pandemic.

The latter fact has pushed back the progress made in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

There are no casual chats in the hallway

Leadership practice has been challenged. In an office setting, leaders had a pulse of organization through MBWA (walking management), informal talks in the hallway, and quick recoveries to have a cup of coffee. All of these methods are not available in a remote work environment.

Now leadership has to look at culture from a distance. The notion that remote work is less efficient compared to physical work in the office has been with significant productivity gains, a big leap in commitment that leads to better outcomes for most pandemic companies.

Leadership has become more authentic as people have seen the leader outside the normal confined space of the office and out of the leadership suit. The leaders, literally and figuratively, loosened their necks and rolled up their sleeves.

According to the authors, high-performance teams in a remote working world tend to be small teams of less than 15 to a team, tend to belong to the same function and teams, and are not cross-cutting.

Working from home does not work when there is a lack of clarity of role and lack of responsibility.

The authors invent the acronym RAMP to form high-performance teams: relationships, accountability, motivation, and processes.

All four are needed if you want high-performance equipment in a remote work world.

Leaders need to listen carefully to remote work and listen to what is not being said. In remote work, it is the responsibility of all those summoned to keep the meeting on track.

Consumers accept digital

Remote work has been just as successful in the ability to train people, it just requires concentration. An advantage of the remote way of working is that challenging feedback can be given more easily than the physical world of the office. Distance work has challenges that we have all experienced over the last 15 months.

The first type of disruptor is multi-tasking, someone who juggles a lot of things while on a call and never focuses on the issues at hand.

The second type of disruptor is the noise carrier; this person makes unnecessary noises at all meetings.

The third type of disruptor is the one that arrives perennial and meetings are held due to the one that arrives late.

Remote work works when people are punctual.

The fourth and final type of circuit breaker.

Remote work works when people listen carefully and do not interrupt when someone is in full circulation. Recovery when interrupted is more difficult in remote work versus physical work.

Some industries will move to work at a distance more than others. Consumers have moved to a digital world faster than leaders and businesses. New rules and policies for a world of work from home will be developed and written and rewritten over the next two years.

I think anyone related to work, remote work, or physical work, will benefit from reading this book. He has many ideas that will help the manager manage himself and his team.

We are all in a learning curve with remote work and the ideas in the book are enlightening.

The auditor is the Executive Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Corporate Strategy and Business Development.

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