Leading In A Time Of Remote Working



 The ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks suggest that a hybrid way of working could become the norm. This is especially likely in service industries where in-person presence is not as critical to operations. 



BCG and Spencer Stuart interviewed 13 South African CEOs about their experiences with remote working and found three commonly held misconceptions, five key success factors and four challenges that remain unresolved.

“Leaders need to focus on maximising the benefits of remote work while mitigating the drawbacks to best position their organisations for success,” says Uhuru Malebo, principal at BCG Johannesburg.


The survey found no evidence that remote working hurts performance or productivity. Fewer than 40% of survey participants said efficiency and productivity declined substantially. Less than half of interviewees said data security and confidentiality were compromised by their employees working remotely. And even newly appointed CEOs did not face substantial trust issues with existing staff.

Mitigating challenges

The CEOs identified challenges that come with remote working and suggested ways in which they can be mitigated. They suggested making wellness a priority across the organisation by enabling employees to recharge and find creative ways to connect in person and share personal messages and stories widely.

They also said that CEOs must give thought to maximising the efficiency of virtual engagements. Additionally, they must set clear standards for planning before key meetings and delegate some tasks to cross-functional leadership working teams to give the CEO time to address the issues that require the most attention.

They also suggested that CEOs adapt their communications strategy to the audience, the message and the channel of engagement, by employing methods such as virtual town halls, pulse-check surveys, personalised messages and targeted emails to share information and start reaching out to individual employees.

Furthermore, they also suggested adapting performance reviews to the realities of remote working so that they provide transparency of performance across all levels of the organisation, while also ensuring a more nuanced, diverse, and broader review process. Lastly, they suggested redefining the most relevant key performance indicators in order to streamline the review process.

Unresolved challenges

The interviewees found four areas that were harder to resolve. Sixty percent of CEOs said that employee onboarding conducted remotely is less effective than in-person arrangements. They also found that remote working has a negative impact on organisational culture due to a lack of face-to-face interaction.

They noted that it has become more difficult to detect the early warning signs of attrition making it harder to retain employees. Lastly, many of the leaders envision that in the future, organisations would deploy a hybrid model, leveraging the advantages of both remote and in-person models. No one could say what that model will look like in detail but all noted that it should be part of their long-term strategy.

There's little doubt that remote working will continue to grow in popularity. “While many of the obstacles were effectively addressed, leaders need to manage the four that remain to capture the benefits of new ways of working and propel their organisations forward,” says Malebo.

To read the full article, click here.




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