WFH has not been the favorite topic of managers before COVID-19. A common argument against giving employees more freedom to choose their workplace was less control of performance and output, negative impacts on communication, and a decrease of actual hours of work. The pandemic showed that it is possible to stay productive without being in the office - and that in many cases, productivity is even increasing.
There is one additional - and surprising - benefit I have noted at Localyze, and this is what I want to talk about today: The potential of WFH as an enabler of better leadership within organizations. I wrote down three examples where I've seen a positive impact, and I am curious if you have others to share:
The first positive outcome is a better-defined meeting and communication structure. With a large part of the workforce working remotely, companies, and teams, have to define a meeting structure, always set an agenda and a clear outcome. Without the quick communication across desks, and without clear structure on what is discussed where, there is a risk that meetings are set for every topic, with everyone who is just remotely involved. Defining clear structures and communication channels can avoid this - and increase employee productivity, even when they are in-office again at some point.
Second, I would argue that distributed teams inspire improved goal setting and performance tracking. With everyone being in one place, managers are much more enticed to "throw something on someone's table" and to throw in new tasks by the hour. This is much harder with everyone working from home (unless you want to run around making calls) - and that's a good thing. It requires managers to plan ahead, communicate, and document goals and priorities - and monitor results.
A third - even if we only have a sample of four - I think managers get more conscious and structured when onboarding new employees. Remote onboarding is of course a challenge, and I would definitely not argue that it is better than in-office onboarding. But it prevents a manager from simply hiring someone, showing them their desk on day one, and let them figure it out by asking colleagues. Defining onboarding material and setting a schedule for the first weeks is much more necessary when onboarding someone from the distance - which again has the potential to improve the team's efficiency even when going back to the office.
I am sure there are more benefits, but the point I wanted to make with this article is that a general "No" to WFH after the pandemic is not appropriate anymore in many companies. And IF leaders are still critical, they should ask themselves if there are real factors preventing their team from being productive outside of the office - OR if there is anything they can do from their side to enable productivity in a more flexible workplace setup.
* by the way - I am not making a case for a fully remote setup, but I think a more flexible workplace strategy has many benefits. More perspectives on hybrid models in the next article!