The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Is WFH the New Future?
Okay, 2020 was the pits and unfortunately, although there is a glimmer of hope, for the most part, 2021 is not going to be a whole lot better. The reality is that, depending on your business, you'll be spending a lot more time working from home (WFH), and so will your employees.
The question is: will everything revert to normal in the fall of 2021 once a sizeable chunk of the population has been vaccinated? Probably not. COVID-19 was a game-changer and altered perceptions worldwide—probably forever. Many workers were forced to work from home and they liked it! Research showed that the expected hit to employee output never materialized; in fact, they were found to be more productive in general. More interesting was the fact that some research has shown that WFH actually increased employee engagement. Happier, more productive employees—what's not to like? Interesting fact: according to a State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs, small businesses hire more remote workers than corporations.
There have been a large number of studies and reports about remote workers and there is widespread agreement about why it's a good thing.
- Employees working from home are happier and more productive (e.g. there are fewer interruptions).
- Employees tend to work longer hours as they want to "finish." One study reported as many as 40% work extra hours.
- There is less absenteeism – one report stated 60% less.
- Employees get to keep more of what they earn (they have fewer expenses e.g. travel, parking, lunches) and are better for the environment.
- They are healthier because they have more time and flexibility to exercise.
- Studies have found that people working from home are more, rather than less, engaged with management and other members of their team.
- Assuming they have a manager who trusts them, employees find that their company cares about them and pays more attention to them. They are less taken for granted.
- WFH employees are less likely to quit. Employee retention has been found to be far higher in companies that favour remote workers.
Of course, the term WFH may be too limiting. You and your employees can work from anywhere. And that, for many, will be the biggest game-changer. Many people live in, or close to, cities because that's where their company is located. This means that you and your employees have to live within commuting distance of an expensive place to purchase accommodation. Now, a lot depends on your type of business, but if you are able to employ remote workers there is no longer a need for them to live within 50 or even 5,000 kilometers of your office. That opens up a huge new employment bank for you; not only that, you may be able to take advantage of people living in different time zones, different countries (think of the value of multi-lingual employees), and areas where salaries are significantly lower. None of this comes without challenges, but the new reality is that where we live and where we work is becoming less constrained.
As we start the new year, still in pandemic mode, consider working from home yourself (or from a Caribbean island somewhere) and allowing your staff to WFH at least partially. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how well it can work.
Re-envisioning Your Company
So much happened in 2020 to change just about every and any business. Not every business has been a loser in the current pandemic lottery, some such as courier services and online retailers saw their businesses grow significantly. Others, unfortunately, were greatly affected by social distancing restrictions and virtual lockdowns in some cases. It's safe to say, however, that for almost all of us in business, the world shifted and the environment within which we operate is vastly different from what it was 12-months ago.
As we enter 2021, therefore, it may be a good time to stand back and take stock of our company's mission, its goals, and its objectives. If you were going to start your business today what would your business plan look like? More importantly, what would your sales and marketing strategy contain? What would your product or services line up consist of?
Try to carve out a half-day over the next week or so and look at your business from 30,000 feet; the big picture view will be very different from the in-the-trenches view you have while trying to survive. Go back to basics and revisit your vision for your company. Don't underestimate the power that a good understanding of your overarching vision for your business has on your big picture thinking. It translates into every action you take in your day-to-day business. As we enter the new year, therefore, it's important to reposition yourself and your business firmly in the new reality.
Why is a clear vision important? It allows you to better survive ongoing pressures by keeping the overall goal in sight. It allows your mind to be prepared for whatever comes along. Without a vision, you miss opportunities. Visioning doesn't allow us to say "it can't be done" since it hasn't happened yet. For instance, one seemingly outrageous vision was JFK's, "We will place a man on the moon in this decade." He uttered those words at a time when computers were less powerful than the smartphone in your pocket.
Now is the perfect time to plan a visioning session either by yourself or with your employees, partners, family, or whomever you trust to help guide you in your business. Before you get started here are a few simple rules for your visioning session:
- Remove distractions.
- Do not edit your ideas.
- Do not let others edit your ideas.
- Try for single-minded concentration.
- Do not judge or analyze as you go.
- Ask yourself lots of hypothetical questions – what if ...?
To begin, award yourself an imaginary magic wand, wave it, and conjure up a vision of what your business will look like in five years' time. Your vision can be a stretch, but it needs to be grounded in reality. If you have a team working with you, then treat it much like a brainstorming session.
Once you have clarified your vision for the future then you will want to drill down to see how you might achieve it by creating a plan for the future. Here's a shortlist of questions, or discussion points, to get you started.
- Going forward, what products and services will be sustainable and which will we discontinue?
- What new products and services should we introduce to better reflect the new reality?
- How can we more effectively reach and service our customer base?
- Given that we are likely to see some form of restrictions continue until the fall of 2021, what changes do we need to make to our sales, marketing, and distribution?
- How can we create new goals and objectives to take advantage of the current situation, or at the very least limit the damage they inflict?
Remember, visioning is not simply a skill. It is an attitude and an act of faith.
Coach's Corner - What Does Your Busy Look Like?
"Instead of saying "I don't have time" try saying "it's not a priority," and see how that feels. Often, that's a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don't want to. But other things are harder. Try it: "I'm not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it's not a priority." "I don't go to the doctor because my health is not a priority." If these phrases don't sit well, that's the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don't like how we're spending an hour, we can choose differently." - Wall Street Journal
How often do you find yourself saying: I'm too busy? The challenge is that busy-ness can be a trap. In today's world of work, being busy gains us a sense of importance and becomes a badge of honour. Too often, busy-ness gets in the way of our true business. Our "to-do" lists can easily morph into "have-to" lists, with little consideration to the priority or importance of the tasks.
"Being busy doesn't mean being productive." - Aniekee Tochukwu Ezekiel
Ask yourself, is your goal to be busy, or to accomplish something? At regular intervals, you need to step back and look at what you are busy doing. Ask yourself, is this a priority? Is this the best use of my time? Taking a little time to prioritize your work activities means by the end of the day you will feel you achieved something worthwhile.
Looking back on your day, you need to be able to identify exactly what you accomplished; more importantly that it was what you set out to accomplish. It is valuable to be able to reflect on each day with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment – that it was time well spent. Planning your day, and listing your priorities, will ensure that important tasks don't get sidelined by those that are simply urgent.
"Sometimes we get so busy with our daily lives we do not take the steps and time necessary to be introspective." - Ken Poirot, Author of Mentor Me
Make it a habit to ask yourself every day: What is the most important thing I need to be doing? Doing this simple thing will prevent you from being caught up in being "busy" rather than dealing with important matters. If you catch yourself being "busy" ask yourself: What is it that I should I be doing?
"Those who are wise won't be busy, and those who are too busy can't be wise." - Lin Yutang, author of The Importance of Living
Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching