Being thrust into remote working as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic has created all sorts of business opportunities – as well as challenges – for forward thinking advice firms. Michelle Hoskin, Standards International, shares some reflective yet practical thinking about how you and your team can embrace the new opportunities for the benefits of the business and for your team.
As the saying goes, ‘trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair’ – it’s so true. We’ve never had to test trust more in the workplace than we have over the last two years. With ‘the great resignation’ in full flow, there is no sign that we can take our foot off the gas to ‘trust more and be more trusted’.
For years, many people had their doubts that remote working can work, and I know that, early doors, you had your doubts too. But come on, let’s face it, remote working worked. And it probably worked better for some than you ever believed it could. I know you had it thrust upon you against your will, but you’ve got to agree that the flexibility of working from home and a (mostly) more pliant, relaxed schedule did come with some benefits – even for you!
I have recently picked up on a few social media posts from friends of mine who are in the process of packing themselves up with their families and partners, selling their non-essential, peripheral stuff and heading off for a ‘global’ life. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help feeling very envious of the freedom and adventure that they were about to unleash. Best of all, though, they were not selling up to travel the world like nomads, they were selling up to travel, to work and to build a life that will be truly global.
Why? Well, why the heck not! I was interested to learn more, so I called them. How could they do this? What was the plan? How were they going to make this work?
The upshot, as you would probably guess, was that they had jobs that they could do fully and effectively regardless of where they were based AND employers who, like them, realised that life was short and basically for living.
My overwhelming feeling when speaking with these friends was how wonderful it was that they were trusted so much by their employers. But I was also struck by the fact that my friends valued their roles and trusted their employers so much that they didn’t just throw in the towel and leave – because I bet it took some guts to ask the question of their employers in the first place.
Then, by strange coincidence, I got a message from Kelsey in my team. She asked me if I would have any issues with her working from South Africa for three weeks.
Any guesses what my response was? Yes, that’s right – I said it would be absolutely fine!
I trust Kelsey more than anything, and at the same time I know that Kelsey trusts me and her fellow team members. Now let’s take this a bit further. What would I have said if Kelsey had told me she was packing up for a ‘global’ life?
The answer would have been exactly the same.
Now, one thing to point out – Kelsey is not in a back-office role. She is our Client Services Manager and is therefore on the phone and in contact with our clients all day long. Does it make a difference where she is to do her job? To me, to her, to our team and to our clients? Absolutely not, because we all trust Kelsey to do what needs to be done.
Had I wanted to and tried hard enough, I could have found a hundred reasons to say ‘no’ to Kelsey’s request. But that would have sent a message loud and clear that, despite her loyalty, efforts, support and love for our business, I didn’t trust her.
Supporting your team
So, think about this approach and the ‘what next’ for your own team. Now that the dust has settled – you have found your flow with remote or hybrid working and your technology is now fully supporting your ability to deliver your services to clients and communicate effectively with your team – could others in your team benefit from working fully remotely? Could any of them benefit from the option that Kelsey has taken? Could you use this approach to attract to your team the best people from further afield and maybe even overseas? It’s all worth thinking about – especially as an opportunity to recruit amazing people to help us grow our amazing businesses.
Is there proof that this approach works? Yes, of course there is.
In a survey* of 4,000 people who had to switch to remote working during the pandemic, 61% said that they viewed remote working more positively as a result. And 95% said they were more productive or the same while working remotely. There are some interesting reasons why this was the case:
- 68% reported having fewer interruptions
- 63% reported they had more focused time
- 68% reported they had a quieter work environment
- 66% reported they had a more comfortable workplace
- 55% reported they were avoiding office politics!
And probably the most striking statistic of the survey was: almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) said that they had a better work–life balance as a result of working remotely.
Now I appreciate this is just one survey of many, and even anecdotally I’m aware of people who couldn’t wait to get back to their desks in the office, but the point is that our lives, and living them fully, are really the only things that matter – and I know that ‘fully’ can mean different things to different people.
As the world starts to re-emerge, the borders open and Covid restrictions really do ease off, we as employers, bosses and leaders in our businesses really do have the opportunity to rewrite the rule book and redesign how the most forward-thinking and progressive businesses play the game.
A question of trust
I believe that it all starts with TRUST, the most powerful little word to cross our lips, and the foundation of every relationship on the planet. Without it, we have nothing.
For a true, ‘global’ way of working and living, we must, without question, trust all those special people in our lives (including those we work with), who share our passions, have our back, are on our side, will do what it takes to get the job done and not take advantage of us when we show our vulnerabilities. But sadly, when our trust is broken and the seeds of doubt take root (often because of a non-engaged few), it affects our willingness to loosen the reins, to be more open to try new things, to let our guard down. It affects the level of trust that we have in others. Game over!
Businesses that have thrived during the past two years have never needed to question trust among their team – and I am pleased to say that my business is one of these.
So, let me ask you, do you trust easily? Have you had your fingers burnt in the past, so that everyone is guilty until proven innocent? How long does it take for you to trust someone? Or do you struggle to trust at all?
Let me also ask you this (and this answer is equally as important): do people trust you?
With so much at stake at the moment, now is our chance: seize the opportunity, embrace and make the changes that once and for all make TRUST a staple in your business.