While working remotely does have positive outcomes, such as increased productivity, employee satisfaction and better work-life balance but the prolonged remote working is having a telling effect on the mental and physical health
With no end in sight for COVID pandemic and WFH likely to continue for some more time, IT teams are beginning to show signs of wearing out—desperate to return to a familiar routine of going to office, meeting colleagues, sitting across a table, impromptu meetings, water cooler discussions. After nearly six months of working remotely, some businesses have adopted a cautious approach to map the return to normalcy while others are still working largely remotely with only a skeletal team at office.
While working remotely does have positive outcomes, such as increased productivity, employee satisfaction and better work-life balance but the prolonged remote working is having a telling effect on the mental and physical health. The initial enthusiasm of remote working is dissipating and employees are now eagerly awaiting a return to the pre-COVID routine.
During the initial days of lockdown, the IT team was busy enabling the organization to work remotely, ensuring employees have the systems, tools and secure networks in place to continue smooth operations. With time as systems fall into a routine, the CIO must face the next critical question of keeping up the energy levels of the IT team and ensure continuous productivity, engagement and high morale.
An article in Harvard Business Review identifies three positive motivators to increase work performance. First is play, which refers to the joy of problem solving which becomes easier when working with a colleague or a group or taking a decision with everyone onboard. Second is purpose which is the visibility into the impact of the contribution on client or colleagues, and third is potential which refers to the access to colleagues to learn and develop.
These are important considerations as working remotely may well become the new normal. Says Ashish Pandey, CIO, GlaxoSmithKline, “Given that working remotely has become feasible, roles which do not require a day-to-day presence may continue with the current setup enabling the business to save on several fronts including real estate. For example, developers are well equipped to work independently as long as they stick to schedules.”
CIOs in India are keenly aware of the new challenges panning out and embracing it with simple, practical measures, often with a personal touch. As leaders of the IT organization CIOs are using instincts to reach out and take care of the overall well-being of the team. Speaking with CIOs, we have found some savvy approaches to keep the team motivated.
Keeping it personal: IT leaders are talking to the team to connect at a personal level at least once a week, asking about the wellbeing of the family and mentoring professionally. Discussions range from dealing with stress related to COVID to physical challenges of space to what courses to pursue and skills to acquire for the next growth phase. Says Ashok Jade, CIO, Spark Minda, “These conversations keep us connected, the team motivated and help us to tide through this period.”
Reduce meetings: A fallout of working remotely is increased communication via calls and video, resulting in fatigue, stress and burnout. IT leaders have recognized this and ruled out unnecessary participation. At GlaxoSmithKline, IT teams have agile calls with people fleeting in and out when the conversation is over. Team members can also refuse calls when they do not think presence is required.
Stimulate with ideation: It isn’t enough to reduce fatigue and CIOs are keeping the team stimulated with ideation challenges such as Airworks India Engineering wherein the company launched a project called Idea Box which elicited more than 250 ideas to improve efficiency and optimize processes, most of which are currently being implemented.
New initiatives: Teams bite into a challenge way more than regular projects, so when the team at DishTV needed to develop an app to remotely support DTH customers, it responded like on a mission and accomplished it successfully even while working across teams remotely.
There is no precedent to the current situation and therefore no reference or guidelines but IT leaders must continue to find ways to address team motivation, otherwise a decline in adaptability will take a heavy toll on the team when the post-coronavirus recovery will require huge leaps in productivity and growth.