Flex Work from a Process Perspective
By Eric Johnson
In a related post we discussed the implications of remote work activities from an accounting and finance perspective. But what about the actual work that needs to get done? How does an organization transition an office setup complete with all the needs for performing job duties, into a decentralized network of home or remote-based employees? What are the modifications in terms of job activities and work processes that necessitate a change from the current state?
• Support: It will be important to ensure that employees have support from both a management perspective and a colleague perspective. Leaders will be obliged to maintain or exceed the level of communication that the office environment permits.
• Communication: There are a wide array of current tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype etc., that can permit both the formal conversations i.e. presentations, and the informal conversations, i.e. a “cube visit” for a particular piece of information. These informal conversations are especially important as they can mitigate the development of workarounds and other process defects.
• Stability: Leadership will be very mindful of ensuring its presence is very visible and “reachable”. The beginning of this process is likely to show deficiencies right out the gate, and having leadership play a calming role will accelerate these new work arrangements as a sustainable norm.
• Current state discussions: this transition to remote work may be a prime opportunity for groups to discuss their current state processes and how they conduct business. There will be definitive changes as to how job activities are performed, and having a consensus on what these changes look like not only gives employees ownership over they are work, and the decision-making process, but also gives clarity across job duties as to what each individual is responsible for.
• Future state discussions: The current state discussions are primarily concerned with the existing processes that will need to take place in new environments. However, the future state discussions can revolve around a much more strategic look at the new working environment and how processes within the current state can be revised to a more efficient way of doing business. For some groups, future state discussions will simply be the sum of those changes to the current state – but for others, it can be a totally ground up approach to satisfy customer demand.
• Home / remote setup: Some employees will have much more stable home office setups than others period from dogs barking in the background too kids running and jumping into zoom videos, it will be expected that individuals’ personal lives will become integrated into the work life. It is important here to at least establish ground rules so that employees have a standard by which to measure the success of their remote work arrangements. Employee should also have the flexibility of developing arrangements with their colleagues to account for personal life needs. These plans should be reviewed so that it is balanced across the group and not advantageous to one individual at the expense of another.
• Software Support: Remote desktop support will be critical here, and there will be concerns from employees from a capability perspective, and potentially from a privacy perspective as well if employees are using personal devices. IT should conduct an introduction or orientation to allow employees a consistent and contextual understanding of this new norm
• Hardware Support: it is inevitable that there will be hardware failures in addition to software failures, and a good IT strategy will involve a mail-in or shipping-based system for replacement, with acute problems contracted to third party Providers in locations in inaccessible to organizational IT support.
• Security: cyber security will be the number one risk or at least in the top three risks from a risk management perspective. Robust IT protocols will need to be established or enhanced to secure network access points and data captured without backups. Leadership will need to employ all groups across the organizational spectrum to coordinate with IT in securing the firm’s data from simple employee accidents all the way up to determined hackers.
All these elements begin with a long and frank discussion on organizational capabilities and the business consequences of this new work arrangement. While not an easy task by any means, if the time and effort is put in on the front end, a tremendous amount of potential risk can be alleviated in execution.