• Leila Ainge

Are you prepared for National Work from Home day, as it could arrive sooner than scheduled?

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

National work from home day falls on Friday 15th May this year, it may arrive sooner than expected for your business. You may be thinking about your continuity or Plan B for COVID 19 and how your working from home practices will support any disruption. We've teamed up with Credo Marketing to discuss the benefits of building in change, capacity and trust as part of your virtual working strategy.

Change, Capacity and Trust

Founder of Ainge Consulting, Leila, has worked in and around technology for the last 20 years. Managing virtual and remote teams in Europe, India and China, she’s steered people through planned and unplanned change. Seleena is the Owner of Credo Marketing Ltd, she navigates her portfolio of clients through the increasingly virtual world of marketing.

Review your Plan B and Boost your Plan A

Leila and Seleena have identified three things you can do to excel in the virtual working world, this approach should complement what you already do.

Boosting your Plan A

1.Make small changes to the way you do things now (don’t wait for something to happen!)

2.Create capacity- reduce your risk

3.Build Trust- create psychological safety

Make small changes, now

Don’t wait, make the change, schedule a virtual meeting, trial a work from home day and make small changes to the way you and your team works. Getting a system in place before you desperately need it is one the most practical steps you can take.

What if a fifth of the workforce calls in sick? Leila says, ‘I advise project teams to look at the planned milestones and the physical activities when there is a high risk against resourcing. Review what is on the critical path, identify any activities that are reliant on ‘key’ individuals and become comfortable using the language ‘deliver or delay’, quite often projects fail because they continue when they should pause or stop.  There is a common misconception that delays cost money, a planned and controlled delay does not have to cost money and I would argue it goes on to deliver a more impactful and lasting change in the organisation.

Understand the expert skills and knowledge the ‘key’ people bring to your team, this is where you do need a Plan B. Having access to flexible freelance, contract and temporary expert resource is your best defence against the unexpected.

Create Capacity

Seleena is no stranger to providing skilled capacity for organisations, as a ‘drop in marketing manager’ her passion is providing marketing solutions for organisations and her advice is this ‘Invest in hats!, one of the amazing skills that small businesses and owners have is the ability to wear many different hats, sales and marketing are just two examples where small businesses do it themselves, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Seleena advises companies to weigh up the cost in time it takes the business to do things themselves over bringing in expertise.

‘You will be surprised at how many of my clients save money when they have a marketing professional adding value to their activities. This can be through saving time, smarter marketing objectives or simply by having a plan so everyone is on the same page’

Your focus and capacity needs to be on your core business, your operation and your people when the unexpected happens, knowing you can rely on a professional to deliver your marketing or steer your project management activities will make all of the difference.

Build Trust

Leila and Seleena both acknowledge that as the full impact of COVID 19 on our businesses is yet to unfold, creating positive environments is critical to the way in which individuals and teams respond to the challenge.

‘It is the ability of a team to collaborate and trust that makes the biggest impact’ ⁠

Leila explains, ‘we work with all of our clients in virtual spaces, traditionally this was driven by geographically dispersed teams, now it is commonplace to hold conference calls and online chats, often there is no formal training or guidance on virtual working tools and techniques, businesses that have adopted virtual practices organically can really benefit from a facilitated approach to virtual working and collaboration.’

Psychological safety was first introduced by the behavioural scientist, Amy Edmondson, who defined it as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” Virtual teams need to work harder to feel safe, ‘the social cues are missing, virtual meetings can feel a little bit like being invited to a party that’s being held in a dark room, we can’t interpret intent in the same way, our brains are working at double speed to process the information we are hearing, this is why trust is so important’

‘I’m a real people person’ says Seleena, ‘so I will always prefer to meet face to face, I get my energy from other people. But having used virtual meeting spaces for many years I know that some people feel something is missing in the conference call word. We all know that the spontaneous conversations in the office where you get to know what’s going on with your colleagues, all helps to build trust right? How do you replicate that?’

‘The key is to not try to replicate your physical team’, explains Leila ‘You’re building a new team with new rules, different social cues and you have this virtual bolt on called distraction in the form of push notifications and instant messaging.

The Ainge Consulting Virtual Working Health Check dives into all these distractions, and our clients are always surprised that being ‘offline’ is a one important and positive strategy for virtual working

We are a generation of ‘on demand’ workers, so getting your virtual system to balance demand with productivity is important. To develop trust, we need to embrace new social cues, for example build in ice breakers at the start of virtual meetings, they serve two purposes, they create a ritual, and they provide a buffer zone for late ‘entries’ to the meeting. Agendas are useful but you also need to think differently about when an online gathering is a meeting, a collaboration, or a discussion.

Understanding what needs to be achieved out of the gathering and understanding the types of virtual work you should establish is part of the Virtual Working Health Check.

Creating a safe space for participants to debate and discuss ideas builds trust and you get better decision making. Importantly this produces as space where people feel able to speak up.In the physical world we are using body language to help us understand reactions to debate, in the virtual world you need to introduce techniques- you want to ensure everyone can be listened to, and that ideas can be debated constructively. The virtual toolkit is an extension of the soft skills you already have.

Three steps to Boost your Plan A

  1. Make small changes – Build virtual working into your everyday

  2. Create capacity – Free your time, hire an experienced professional

  3. Build Trust – Create safe virtual spaces for collaboration

Contact us : Leila on 07926 848012, Seleena on 07813 124693


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