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Remote work lessons: boosting organizational resilience

In every business, there are processes. Big processes, like creating business proposals, and small processes, like filling out expense reports. They define and guide day-to-day activities and help your company to stay on track. Inevitably, all companies face challenges that disrupt their operations. To navigate them, organisational resilience is required.

What is organisational resilience?

Organisational resilience can be defined as your company's ability to anticipate, respond to, and adapt to disruptions and other challenges. There are many different types of challenges that businesses can face, such as economic downturns, hiring freezes, supply chain disruptions, changes in legislation, and public health emergencies.

Any obstacle that prevents your company from operating normally, growing, and achieving its goals must be managed and overcome. This is crucial for your company to survive and prosper.

Why it matters

Business disruptions are unpredictable and can happen at any time. While you can't always predict when or how they'll happen, you can be ready for them. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of this.

The pandemic caught everyone by surprise. However, companies that were prepared to deal with disruptions fared better during the pandemic than those that weren't.

The ability of a company to respond quickly and effectively in emergencies can literally be the difference between survival and bankruptcy. There are many different types of disruptions that can make business difficult, from small scale chaos caused by events like pandemics, to larger scale issues that can have a major impact on operations.

And while companies that lack organisational resilience can survive some challenges, most companies want to do more than just survive. It's also a counterproductive state of mind. When your employees are preoccupied with survival, there’s little mental energy left for innovation and creativity. When you're dealing with a crisis, you have less time and energy to invest in growth and development.

Traits that define resilient organisations

In addition to having a plan for resilience in place, there are some traits that resilient organisations have in common.

They’re flexible and quick to adapt

Resilient organisations are those that are flexible and can adapt to change quickly. Every organisation needs to be ready for both big and small crises, but those plans can't be set in stone. Companies need to be prepared to change them when necessary. If your organisation is too deeply committed to tradition, you may find it difficult to meet unforeseen challenges effectively. 

They value foresight

Foresight is an essential part of resilience. Leaders who are part of resilient organisations are always looking ahead for potential problems and ways to overcome them. They’re also more likely to see business opportunities on the horizon and to create new approaches to maximise them.

Resilient organisations also empower their employees to develop their foresight and share their perspectives. After all, employees have a different, valuable perspective on the company and on the market than leaders.

They value collaboration

Resiliency requires collaboration. A free exchange of opinions, thoughts and ideas among co-workers will help develop a richer, more effective resiliency strategy. When employees openly collaborate, they’re more likely to come up with new and better ideas. As an additional benefit, your team members will be more likely to keep a positive attitude and support each other.

What distributed teams can teach us 

In order to work effectively, members of distributed teams must be independent and resourceful. For example, employees in hybrid and distributed teams often need to make decisions without immediate feedback from other team members due to time zone differences.

The ability to problem solve quickly is essential for distributed workers, as are strong communication skills. Both of these abilities are essential to developing organisational resilience. Distributed teams also encourage collaboration among team members. Here are some other things distributed teams can teach us about organisational resilience.

Distributed teams are proactive

Distributed work requires independence, the ability to take initiative, and be proactive. This is essential for both the individual and the group to be successful. Personal proactivity is crucial for group success and reinforces the importance of its development in other team members.

How to make this work for your company:

Empower and encourage your team to work proactively. Tell your team that they don't need permission to step up and address situations directly. If mistakes are made in the process (which they will be), emphasise the fact that it’s all part of the learning process.

Distributed teams work together separately

In many instances, distributed teams do not have a physical space to meet and socialise, like an office, break room or water cooler. However, even though they're not all in the same place at the same time, they can still function as a cohesive team.

In order to make this happen, strong communication skills are essential. Because remote and hybrid workers often conduct most of their work digitally and across multiple time zones, it can be difficult to build trust, set expectations and ensure that knowledge is shared transparently. Successful distributed teams work around these challenges by adopting a strategic approach to communication. That can include: 

  • Developing a formal communication strategy
  • Creating a company wiki or knowledge base
  • Using inclusive workplace language
  • Pairing messages with the right medium and format
  • Balancing synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • And more! 

How to make this work for your company:

Encourage your team members to partner with each other, and to use their teammates as a sounding board. Be intentional about the way your team communicates and consider developing a formal policy. The better your team is at communicating and working cohesively, the more resilient your company will be. Provide the catalyst and the example so your team can emulate you.

Distributed workers are more focused

One of the greatest challenges for employees that work in a physical, co-located workspace is finding enough distraction-free time to do deep work. The more people there are in one space, the higher the chances of getting interrupted.

It takes around 15-20 minutes to reach the point where you can do productive and deep work. And every time you’re distracted, the process has to start over again thanks to context switching. That's bad news for most office workers, as they are interrupted, on average, 31.6 times per day.

Deep work is easier for distributed employees, as they have more control over their environment and can minimise distractions. This translates to greater focus, which, in turn, translates to better work.

How to make this work for your company:

Give your employees more freedom in choosing where and how they work. The optimal work setup is something that differs from person to person and is influenced by a variety of factors. We all perform better when we have more control over our work environment..

There has been a great deal of research that shows the many benefits of increased workplace flexibility. We see now that more flexibility encourages employee engagement, productivity, and greater satisfaction, which are also important factors of organisational resilience. 

The bottom line

Companies have faced big challenges in the last two years that have underscored the importance of organisational resilience. But you don’t need a huge crisis to show that your company will benefit from developing a plan for resiliency. 

Take the time now to start developing a culture of resilience at your company. It will help improve your daily operations and your employees to be ready for the next challenge your company faces.

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