Remote working, digital nomads, new collaboration tools, horizontal management – technological progress, new employee expectations and the current health context are prompting a change in working methods. How can companies prepare so they remain successful and attractive? We ask Jean-Michel Menant, Director of Transformation & New Ways of Working at Orange Consulting.
Greater hybrid working patterns blending face-to-face and remote working
Tomorrow, will we go back to the office, stay at home, or do a bit of both? With the health crisis, the shift to hybrid working (a blend of remote and face-to-face working) is now widespread among white-collar professions, made easier by the adoption of new digital tools. This crisis situation enabled business continuity while dispelling certain misconceptions about teleworking, previously perceived as a risk in terms of performance.
According to Jean-Michel Menant, Director of Transformation & New Ways of Working at Orange Consulting, “Employees have shown that remote working still guarantees performance. The maturity gained from these new operating methods and the lessons learned by companies are strong evidence.” Result: 82% of respondents to a recent Gartner study plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.
Greater flexibility in personal and collective organisation
No one can predict the future, but successful companies will be the ones that can adapt to it. “They will have to develop their ability to adapt, and even scalability, in order to quickly switch from normal operations to crisis operations and therefore ensure business continuity," analyses Jean-Michel Menant. This requires clearly established work processes and adapted digital solutions: mobile devices, data available in the cloud, digital processes, collaborative tools ... as well as a robust IT infrastructure capable of absorbing peaks in traffic, especially in times of mass teleworking or hybrid interactions.
This scalability means investing in technology and training teams in digital tools and remote interactions. From an organisational point of view, it involves engaging the company and employees towards new management methods, which are more flexible and more horizontal.
Greater autonomy and employee empowerment
With employees only meeting a few times a week in the office and workspaces that don’t always promote discussion, how do you maintain and cultivate employee engagement?
“We’ll have to propagate a vision of remote working that meets employees’ expectations of empowerment, for example by letting them adapt their schedules and time on site. You have to take into account different employee profiles, with varied needs and desires in terms of autonomy, socialising or collective performance.”
Companies will encourage a return to the office, which remains an essential space for teamwork and team spirit. “Organising cross-functional meetings, team meetings, creative workshops, project committees or open discussions with team leaders will, for example, make on-site presence more meaningful,” specifies Jean-Michel Menant.
The important role managers play in preparing for the future
To make it easier to transition to new ways of working, managers play an important role as changemakers and setting a good example. They’ll need to focus on transparency. “Remote team management presupposes balanced relationships: promoting trust by adapting the level of autonomy to the profile of employees, but also remaining attentive to their well-being by detecting weariness, mental fatigue or isolation,” explains Jean-Michel Menant.
Regular meetings as well as individual employee review will be an opportunity to ensure that team spirit and cohesion are maintained. Rituals such as informal virtual meetings will help maintain a friendly atmosphere from a distance.
Management by objective is a final key point: if working methods change, evaluation methods will have to follow suit. Performance reviews built on precise indicators and deliverables, depending on each person's profession, will favour the quality of the achievements over the quantity of time spent behind a screen.
This type of management also gives employees more autonomy to organise their own tasks, while still meeting the company’s performance objectives.
Taking note of and preparing for these technological, organisational and relational challenges is a question of survival: employee engagement, business performance and employer attractiveness will remain closely linked in the future world of work.