In uncertain times, companies that prioritize their people come out ahead

As one of the early pioneers in this space, the advantages of remote work are no mystery to Citrix, or to our partners. Even so, it’s one thing to implement it as a “nice-to-have” option for some of your people some of the time.

It’s quite another to pivot to a 100-percent online workforce in a matter of weeks, in some cases days, as thousands of companies have had to do this spring. As our customers navigate this seismic change to their business, they’re getting a crash course in what remote work is all about and what it takes to do it well. Among the biggest misconceptions getting punctured: that it’s just about technology.

Of course, it’s easier to make this shift with effective, properly implemented remote work technology. But in most cases, the businesses transitioning most effectively are those with an organizational culture that supports, trusts and empowers people to work productively on their own. Based on conversations our partners are having with customers right now, here are some of the key attributes these organizations share.

They care about engaging and empowering their employees

Our partners work with customers of every kind, deploying Citrix solutions for a variety of reasons. What they’re seeing is that the organizations transitioning to remote work most successfully also happen to be passionate about creating a great work experience for employees. They value their people. They invest in engaging and supporting them. And almost invariably, they’re now seeing the fruits of that investment as they expand remote work.

“These companies were so ahead of the game,” says Nancy Pautsch, Chief Evangelist of Stakeholder Value (president) of Envision IT. “They had that culture of trust and empowerment, and so their employees were a little more resilient. They felt cared for and engaged and were invested in making this transition work.”

Even in companies that have long championed engaging and supporting their people, the pandemic has put that commitment to the test. By meeting the challenge, they’re cultivating more cohesive organizations and more committed employees.
“I find we’re reconnecting a lot more, we’re not hidden away in our offices anymore,” says Gareth Meyer, commercial and operations director, Ultima. “I’ve got an hour a day set aside for any of our employees to just call me. It can be personal, it can be business related, but if they need to chat, that’s locked into my calendar now with an open invitation. As long as we keep the conversation going, we will get through this as a team.”

They trust their employees

That kind of engagement works both ways.

In companies that have consciously created a culture of valuing and empowering employees, managers have also had an easier time transitioning.

“As leaders, we have to build a culture where we trust that our people are contributing back to the business,” says Mathew Metelsky, chief executive officer of Third Octet. “We have to be able to ease back on the controls and let people figure things out for themselves right now. Be a coach, a mentor, not a boss. If you’re willing to let them go beyond their normal boundaries, you’ll be surprised at what they can do.”
Meyer echoes that sentiment. “One of the things I’ve recognized is the increase in output we’re getting from our people, without the distractions of working in an office,” he says. “It’s significant.”

Granting employees that kind of autonomy doesn’t come easily for every business or manager. But it’s a lesson we’re all learning, because we don’t have much choice.

“Even organizations that didn’t already have that mindset are finding themselves loosening the reins, becoming more results-oriented, and they’re seeing their employees flourish,” says Pautsch. “I think the companies that emerge from this experience most successfully will be those that don’t just allow people some autonomy, but support them, empower them and enable them to think outside the box.”

They care about work/life balance

Most companies at least pay lip service to supporting work/life balance.

In practice though, too many employees end up arranging their entire lives around work. In the short term, it may be reassuring to managers to know their employees are putting the job above all else. Over time though, too many of those employees end up burnt out, frustrated and unhappy.

Now, many employees are having an extended experience working at home for the first time. They’re managing their own time and tasks. They’re cutting out three-hour round-trip commutes and spending that time with family instead, or pursuing their own passions. If businesses expect those employees to go back to sacrificing all their time and energy for the job post-pandemic, they may be in for a rude awakening.

“Right now, people are getting that work/life balance back,” says Meyer. “Personally, I’ve spent much more time with my kids now in the last three months, because I’m normally in the office, stuck in traffic for an hour and a half twice a day. It’s 9:00 before I’m back at home, and the kids are in bed. This situation has really allowed me to reengage with my family, and we want that for the rest of our employees. So, we’re already looking at our office space. Do we really need a 24x7 on-premises operational division, when it’s actually been functioning perfectly well? As long as people are delivering what the company expects, there’s no reason they shouldn’t get a lot more of their time back.”

Investing in people pays dividends

When companies get these things right—when they build a culture that trusts, values and empowers employees—they can handle major business disruptions, even on the scale of a global pandemic, much more easily. But the businesses leading the way in these areas are seeing other benefits as well. For example, all of a sudden, organizations that used to be highly localized are finding it easier to operate as nationwide, even global businesses.

“Now that everything we do is no longer tied to these physical offices, we can attract a pool of customers around the world,” says Metelsky. “We're not just this regional or national brand; we're potentially an international organization. There’s a great opportunity here for smart leaders to pivot the business, leverage technology to its fullest advantage and come out of this stronger than ever.”

Companies that prioritize culture also find that, even during a major disruption, disparate teams in different places can build stronger cohesion and trust. At Insentra in Australia, they’ve made a concerted effort to keep employees engaged and connected during the pandemic, hosting virtual happy hours, cooking competitions, yoga classes and more. And it’s made a big difference.

“Before, most of our social activities were very localized,” says Lauren Rutter, marketing manager, Insentra. “I actually spend more time communicating and collaborating with the global team now, because we’re all in the same situation.”

Building a better culture

Ultimately, it’s just good business to build a better culture for your people.

Employees that feel valued are more productive. They’re more innovative. And they make their value felt on the bottom line.

“We believe that when folks can focus their time on what they were hired for and what their talents and interests are, they’ll thrive,” says Pautsch. “They’ll contribute even more meaningfully to the business. They’ll innovate faster and more creatively, because they’re not afraid to bring ideas. We think this is the next phase that companies are going to go through. And those that prioritize their people are going to sprint ahead of everyone else.”

“I think we’re entering a new phase, where remote work becomes more the new normal for more of our customers,” says Meyer. “We are speaking with companies that can save millions by shutting down some of their offices that they don’t really need. And then they can reinvest that in the wellbeing of their employees. I think that change is coming.”

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