Embracing Remote Work as an Opportunity for Agility

Many businesses are in a state of change and uncertainty as the new “normal” way of working develops through the COVID-19 outbreak. Some enterprises are doing their part by instituting new work from home policies, keeping their workers from crowding into offices, and commuting on public transit. A lot has been said about the challenges of remote work for employees; however, I’ve found it useful to focus on how human resource (HR) teams can leverage remote abilities as an opportunity to provide and maintain the best tools and resources to help their employees achieve productivity.

While businesses look to follow the agile approach to boost effectiveness through collaborative teamwork, the very principles of the agile manifesto were created to harness change and adapt as needed. Agile approaches such as Scrum restructure the way work is done in an organization, breaking down large projects into smaller ones to ​ incrementally deliver value to customers through collaborative, self-organizing, and cross-functional teams. The practice of agile in HR facilitates responsiveness and adaptiveness to change by embracing a “test-and-learn” approach.

By embracing agility during a time of remote work, businesses can continue to help their employees build on their leadership development and encourage them to utilize new tools and technologies available to them.

Below are a few examples of how HR teams can drive employee development for remote workers.

Adapt to new technologies and develop trust that employees will use them

To continue to drive agile practices from home, businesses will need to embrace online tools to ensure teams can still be virtually connected and have visibility into the flow of the project. These tools can range from desktop sharing to investing in bandwidth, HD cameras, and microphones. HR leaders should ensure that all employees feel they have the equipment they need to continue working effectively. In turn, employees need to feel empowered to use the collaboration tools and new methods of working that their employer has invested in for their home workspace.

As businesses implement these new capabilities, it will also be senior leadership’s responsibility to develop trust that employees are making progress on their own. It’s important to adjust contact with each other as needed, so both parties feel comfortable that they are operating at a plane of productivity. Working remotely provides an opportunity to focus and maintain concentration, but that’s no excuse to avoid giving and receiving feedback, checking in, and connecting with your peers every now and then.

Shifting to a challenge-responsive mindset and managing problem-solving skills remotely

It is crucial that HR leaders create new avenues for employees to discuss concerns or share questions. Keeping a problem-solving mindset allows for employees to feel “safe” during uncertain times. When instability takes hold, employees often are unable to think strategically about solving the problem and instead lend their mindset to self-preservation.

HR teams can set an example and point out the positive opportunities in the situation while still providing sensible logic and updates to keep employees prepared and informed. Good leaders will need to consider their language and positioning about the outbreak and give employees permission to openly discuss their concerns and feel safe to fail, safe in the knowledge that the business as a whole has the confidence in their abilities and to weather this storm.

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For example, HR leaders might highlight how employees can now exercise a greater level of control over their working days, benefit from fewer distractions in the workplace, and focus on long-term strategic projects. Adopting an opportunistic mindset can positively change a team’s culture during a time of uncertainty and will allow for collaboration with ease and delivery without roadblocks.

Agile approaches can support individuals in continuing their leadership development from remote locations

By embracing an agile approach, businesses can continue to help their employees by encouraging them to take up online modular courses for leadership development.

I’ve seen an increase in interest in my virtual training courses as a lot of people become more interested in the distance-learning approach. Online courses are easy for employees to build into their work lives, especially when remote, and they have the benefit of being deeper and “stickier” than traditional classroom training. They have the opportunity to dedicate certain blocks of time a day to learn and develop their skills that wouldn’t easily fit into a normal day in the office.

As a Certified Agile Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer, I understand that unforeseen circumstances can disrupt workflow. It’s my job to help business leaders and HR teams change their mindset and interpret these situations as an opportunity for growth and learning. It’s also important for business leaders to provide effective collaboration tools for their remote workers and empower them to self-lead on day-to-day tasks as the agile philosophy encourages employees to take control of their own work. This has now expanded into career development, encouraging people to identify and focus on topics and areas that are important to them and allowing them to work on skill development with online modular classes and industry-specific online training.

Geoff Watts was one of the first Certified Agile Coaches in the world and has been helping organizations large and small adopt a more agile form of leadership for 20 years. He is the author of four best-selling books and offers leadership coaching at the team and 1-2-1 level as well as training in agile leadership and Scrum. You can find out more about him at www.inspectandadapt.com

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