McKinsey Report – A blueprint for remote working: Lessons from China
With the general instruction from most governments being that if you can work from home you must, one of the unintended outcomes of the COVID 19 pandemic is that is has given many businesses a huge and sudden introduction to remote working at scale. Organisations are rapidly having to adjust how they operate and learn in real-time how to make this work – both for the business and for their employees who in many cases are tackling the less than ideal logistics of combining work and all-day childcare.
McKinsey has produced an insightful report and accompanying video that looks at the learnings we can take from China, where lockdown restrictions happened ahead of other countries and the longer-term implications for successful models of remote working. It also contains two of the handiest charts we’ve seen outlining which communication tools and technologies are best for each type of interaction between employees.
Grouped under eight key themes for success the report outlines the importance of:
Effective structure design to enable clarity and decision making – what worked face to face may not be effective remotely, the report found smaller cross-functional teams with a clear reporting line worked well.
Clear leadership offering a clear vision and realistic outlook – focusing on output and empowerment at the individual and team level.
A caring culture –an acknowledgement that employees are tackling many things in addition to their roles such as childcare, isolation and loss and encouraging (virtual) social interaction within teams will help employees now and foster longer-term connections that will extend beyond this period.
Find a new routine – it is very easy to not spend time on this but essentially it is crucial to understanding workflow rhythms, and individual constraints and build in regular managed meeting points. The remote working routine may look very different from the office-based one.
Supercharging ways of communication – using the right channels and technology for different jobs is critical to productivity. Knowing when a video conference is the best tool versus chat or email saves time and crucially enables clear communication. Get the technology right – including basics (fast reliable internet and home ergonomics) training on technology, and access to productivity dashboards.
Take security seriously – make this easy for employees to understand and follow. Doing it right requires giving employees the tools they need to be productive while managing data confidentiality and access.
Adopt test and learn mentality –be ready to recognise things that aren’t working and make changes quickly.
What is unknown is the extent to which the COVID 19 lockdown will lead to long term changes in the way flexible and remote working practices are viewed. Is this something businesses are doing out of absolute necessity or are we seeing a supercharged flexible working revolution that will be hard to roll back on?
The report highlights that done well, with clear communication, work design, technology, and leadership, the benefits to organisations and individuals in terms of productivity and morale are real. If that is the case, then the business arguments against a permanent change to the way many traditionally office-based jobs have been done look unlikely to stand up to much scrutiny once the current restrictions we are all facing are removed.
Full report here