When it comes to returning to the workplace, there’s no shortage of conflicting viewpoints in the marketplace in general – nor among advisors and their teams in particular. I’ve spoken with more than a few firm founders who have told me, “I’m never going back into a 9-5 office environment. I get way more done, more quickly and efficiently, working remotely without all the interruptions.” And I hear the same thing from many team members who love the fact that they get back two hours of time every day that they otherwise would spend commuting.
Other founders, however, have emphatically told me, “The minute we can all get back together, we’ll be back in the office. I’m paying $3,000 per month on a two-year lease for our upgraded office space, so you can bet we’re going back as soon as we can.” And lately, as more and more time away from the office passes, I’m hearing a growing number of firm principals starting to consider ways they might devise solutions that bridge those two extremes.
Instead of rushing back to the workplace (and forcing your team to join you there), now’s the time to pick some date in the future – even two or three years from now – when you’re highly confident that COVID-19 will be far in the rearview mirror, and ask yourself: What would an ideal work environment look like at that point in time? To answer that question thoughtfully, however, you’ll need to consider four unique perspectives:
- Owner’s perspective – Start by considering how YOU feel about you and your team working in a distributed manner. How do you feel about your own productivity, sense of engagement and personal fulfillment when you’re working remotely?
- Clients’ perspectives – What impact would the lack of a traditional office presence have on your client relationships? There may be some clients who really value coming into the office to meet, and others who rarely, if ever, come to you. Perhaps you’ve invested heavily in building a state-of-the-art physical space. In order to make an informed decision about the future state of your business, though, you need to talk to your clients to know where they stand.
- Team perspectives – Ask each team member to fill out a questionnaire about how they like working remotely. How do they feel about its impact on team collaboration? Ask them to conduct an honest self-assessment about their productivity; what works well and what doesn’t? And then interview each team member individually to gauge where they stand. Understand that this will be a polarizing issue for teams, so bringing everybody together to reach a consensus will likely only create strife.
- Other considerations – Along with your own personal viewpoint, client opinions, and the input of your team members, you’ll also need to assess the potential financial impact, space and planning impact, and culture impact of any significant shift in how you conduct business. These are mitigating factors that may serve to tip the balance in your decision-making process.
When you put all of this together, you’ll then have the information you need to make an informed decision about the long-term impact to your organization of a traditional office model versus a remote distributed workforce model.
Keep in mind, consensus on an issue like this is difficult, if not impossible. And you can’t allow the inmates to run the asylum. There will be employees who think they work particularly well from home, who others on the team view as being the biggest disruptors. There also may be compliance considerations associated with working remotely which will need to be addressed as well as technology upgrades that need to be made.
Ultimately, what we at ClientWise envision as a common outcome of this type of exercise, is the idea that working from home and workplace flexibility will become another earned company benefit – like paid time off and bonuses – that is based on each individual’s performance reviews. And for those working remotely, they’ll still need to participate in weekly team meetings where the team does physically come in, as well as some kind of periodic team bonding / culture-building events.
Whichever avenue you ultimately choose to pursue, the time to start strategizing your firm’s approach and planning out how things are actually going to work is now.
Coaching Questions from this article:
- How do you feel in general about the idea of you and your team working in a distributed manner?
- How would you gauge your own personal productivity, sense of engagement and job fulfillment over the past few months working remotely compared to before when you were in a traditional office environment?
- Based on business metrics as well as your own instincts, do you feel like your team has the self-discipline and motivation to work efficiently and effectively from home?
- What percentage of your clients do you think would have concerns about a distributed workforce model? How might you position that approach as a positive change that will benefit them?
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