How to Successfully Manage Covid-19’s Organisational Disruption

Steve Macmillan

Post-lockdown, many organisations will reopen offices with significantly reduced occupancy. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is moving to permanently reduced occupancy and a formal remote working policy for new hires. Eventually about half of its 50,000 workforce will work remotely within 5 to 10 years.

When we list some of the benefits of remote working, the drivers and rationale for widespread uptake seem very obvious:

  • No commuting to the office
  • Improved levels of focus and productivity
  • No travel time to attend face to face meetings
  • A more flexible working day/week
  • Very positive impact on work/life balance
  • Flexibility with childcare

Prior to lockdown several local authorities were actively preparing for remote working for staff and councillors. Valuable lessons, such as not underestimating the learning curve for many users, especially those less technically minded, have already been learnt that will surely inform other organisations to avoid such blips.

It’s not all rosy in the garden – different pressures become apparent

Teams that have been forced to switch literally overnight to fulltime remote working during the lockdown may have experienced a new set of pressures with no time to prepare for them.

Managers have struggled to find a rhythm for reporting and communicating with their teams. Video conferencing is anathema to some people and does not fully replicate the “around the table” dynamic of conventional meetings.

Some managers also have difficulty in letting go of direct supervision and being comfortable with the trust required to get the best out of staff members. Not everybody has access to anything remotely resembling an ideal home office space either, especially with children confined to the house during lockdown.

All of these issues have been faced and successfully overcome by other organisations; however, there is no denying that a business transformation exercise is required.

SOCITM Advisory appreciates and support the efforts made to achieve success

Mark Adams-Wright, Director of Socitm Advisory had this to say in praise of organisations affected:

For some this [move to remote working] has been an extension of a direction of travel with technology in place to support it, but for many it has meant fast tracking plans and technology roll outs to get their workforce up and running quickly, working remotely.

In all cases valuable lessons have been learned in terms of more technical aspects such as remote access to key systems and general broadband capacity, but more importantly from a longer term view how users can and should use the tools that are being used to get the very best out of them and how to embed working in this way as part of how they operate for the future?

As the technical aspects are ironed out, the focus will inevitably be on these broader change and adoption protocols and practices so that what was driven by Covid-19 becomes the way Authorities continue to operate as new, adapted organisations.”

Mark Adams-Wright, Director of Socitm Advisory

Laying down solid foundations for successful adoption of remote working

To maximise this paradigm shift we need to manage it intelligently and carefully. What considerations are there from a business perspective?

  • What protocols need to be agreed if more employees are to work from home?
  • Does this change work for everyone?
  • How do we build on the positive impact to work/life balance?
  • Collaboration and communication must not be diluted – how can this be assured?
  • What is the ideal balance of remote working with office attendance?

Putting thought into these and other related points should lead to developing cogent policies. We touched on the IT policies required in a previous newsletter and they remain the bedrock from which to execute business change.

View a demo video of our IT Policy Management software and service

Business change management is the key to success

Technology is the enabler, but applying basic business change management principles is vital for successful organisational adjustment.

As part of the change management process we advise guarding against these 5 common causes of change management failure:

  1. Inadequate planning and preparation
  2. Lack of appreciation of the effects of change
  3. Rushed implementation
  4. Absence of buy-in and support from staff and line managers
  5. Erratic communication

Additionally, time pressures will necessarily condense what would be a major organisational redesign into essentially adapting to the de facto situation that has arisen, but it’s a vital exercise if the new landscape is to be pulled together sensibly to deliver positive results. Using the right protocols and polices can address deficiencies so that the genuine benefits are quickly realised.

The hazards of remote working for management to watch for and avert

Research has identified the most common pitfalls of remote working that is not properly supported and managed.

  • Fading interpersonal connections leading to a loss of identity
  • Team cohesion weakening
  • Loss of a holistic sense of place in the organisation
  • Unclear objectives
  • Low motivation and disgruntled individuals can result from the above

Nothing fully replaces the physical interaction of an office environment, and the important social and mental health benefits are only missed when it is taken away.

The solution to these pitfalls is to devise a judicious blend of remote and in-office working. Bringing teams together once a week fulfils part of that jigsaw puzzle. Adding an incentive, such as lunch together or an hour in the pub afterwards, boosts morale and adds enjoyment too.

View our recently recorded webinar:
Laying the Foundations for a Secure Computing Environment

For a further discussion, please contact us.


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