It's no secret that the 40-hour workweek is the standard many industries have set for required working time. It became popularized by Henry Ford in the 1920's for employees working for manufacturing companies and was revolutionary for labor unions and standards within the United States. Now, in the year 2020, many organizations are continuing to use this model for professional workspaces as research has indicated that working over 40 hours a week has negative affects for the employer and employee while the average hours Americans work have been creeping upwards.
Before COVID-19 became widespread, it was common for employees to come in early to the office only to stay later because their most productive hours were when their co-workers weren't constantly chatting and managers looking over their shoulder. With flexible work styles becoming increasingly popular at a rapid rate, it should come at no surprise that the 40-hour workweek expectations need to be re-evaluated for previously traditional office spaces. Here are a few ideas to consider to boost workforce production while emphasizing the normality of embracing life outside of the office:
Quality of results matter more than which hours employees work and the amount of hours worked. The quality of the deliverables employees produce can be considered as a more relevant metric for measuring productivity, not the amount of hours worked within professional environments. If expectations around the work an employee produces are not specifically defined, easily measurable, and tie into how results will tie into overarching company objectives, it can be easy for an employee to go full 40-hour weeks and provide minimal value to the organization without it being noticed by anyone except that employee. This means that accountability of establishing and maintaining an agile approach to tracking performance falls on both management and their employees. It is imperative that teams and employees connect weekly for clarification on project roles and general check-ins, but that doesn't mean that everyone has to be online working their full day at the same time. Pick a few times each week when everyone required for the project updates, stand-ups, or check-ins will be available to be online to minimize distractions and get your asynchronous communication aligned without any major issues.
Re-evaluate your boundaries independently, and as a team. When employees are unsure where they fit into a process/environment change, or if their role requires upskilling, it's easy for them to suddenly feel insecure in a position they spent years learning and mastering. People are an organization's greatest asset, and mismanaging expectations of change can be detrimental at front-line and managerial levels. This may mean:
Continuation of 10-12 hour days because original expectations were vague, never clarified, or communicated and transferred into a way that works for telecommunication
Overbearing micromanagement from co-workers and managers that are unsure of how to work together when not in-person because of a lack of trust and support
Increased (or decreased) meetings that lack clear objectives because employees are unsure of how to create or maintain quality connections with one another
Misinterpreting 'remote' work as 'isolated' work, meaning co-workers will only interact with one another through a screen instead of prioritizing in-person meet-ups, work sessions, or social events (also known as FOMO - the fear of missing out)
The mitigation of potential misunderstanding must start at the top of the organizational chart. When shifting employees and teams to remote working environments, it is critical that they understand that they will need to re-evaluate the way work is being done each day to prevent inadvertently creating a toxic environment that they are unsure of fitting into. Managers and team leads need to foster these discussions with their teams to understand what schedules work for them, especially when balancing personal commitments. If organized efficiently, remote team members will no longer have to juggle the demands of life and their career.
Flexibility is necessary for all employees, regardless of job duties. High employee satisfaction means that an employee enjoys their job, but when an employee is engaged, their job is directly tied to their purpose. Employees have been striving for more flexibility when it comes to their work/life balance before the pandemic, and with the opportunity for this to be at the forefront in this remote work migration, also comes the ability for increasing employee engagement. Engaged employees perform better within their organizations, have more meaningful relationships with their colleagues, and are less likely to leave. Flexibility in schedule, location, and even what employees wear to video conferences are all opportunities to foster a more accommodating culture. An inability for organizations to adapt to a more flexible work environment will cost high-performing talent, reduced work quality, sustained productivity loss, increased expenses, and lowered revenue.
Finding what works for your workforce when undergoing digital transformation does not have to rely on costly 'trial-and-error' methods that could jeopardize company productivity, values, or retaining top-notch talent. Understanding how to navigate these challenges requires data-centric and change-savvy perspectives to keep your organization ahead of the competition by adding indispensable skills to its toolkit.
We're ready to find the best approach for your organization. Contact ReVise Consulting today!
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