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Leading And Enabling A Choice-Based, Decentralised Work Culture
The world as we knew has changed drastically over the past three months, One of these radical changes has been in the way we work.
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The world as we knew has changed drastically over the past three months, presenting businesses and economies around the world with a host of unprecedented challenges. One of these radical changes has been in the way we work. Professionals across the world had to swiftly embrace remote working to ensure business continuity in the midst of the pandemic. This transition from traditional workplace setups to working from home has sparked an experimental cultural drift in organisational dynamics. Of course, the trend is still fresh, which means there is a substantial change that we are yet to lead through in the near future.
Working from home and a decentralised workforce still has its challenges and may not be for every company. Businesses need to be cognizant of employee needs as a remote setting cannot entirely replace the team atmosphere that an office creates. At Twitter, we are sending out surveys to understand how our employees are doing. Many people still want the opportunity to connect with colleagues in the office, but they also want the option to work from home where the roles allow making that choice.
We have constantly worked towards creating a culture and environment that is conducive and inclusive of everyone’s needs and requirements. We have emphasised on decentralisation and supported the proliferation of a distributed workforce that is capable of working from anywhere. Adoption of such a model in the long-run has the potential of fostering a dynamic culture built on novel organisational and leadership values. I believe that embracing a choice-based culture is the way forward and here’s why:
Working remotely empowers employees with the freedom to shape their professional journey. Such a work-setting allows employees the flexibility to design a routine that works best for them, instead of regimenting them into set work patterns. Not only does this freedom allow people to perform at their optimal best, it also makes them more accountable. The freedom to organise their work, goals, timings and location has, in fact, shown to produce increased efficiency and better results.
Moreover, through this freedom, employers and leaders place a high level of trust in their employees and their professional capabilities. In a culture focused on choice and trust, managers would not have to micromanage and employees would be accountable to deliver outcomes, thus growing into self-reliant individuals who contribute more holistically to their teams.
The freedom to design one’s own work routine also increases productivity by enhancing the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of employees. Several employees prefer ‘Work From Home’ as it eliminates the nightmare of commuting, thereby saving time, effort, and resources. Instead, individuals can spend this time with their family, friends, or in cultivating a hobby/pursuing a passion. All of this decreases stress and helps in establishing a healthy lifestyle, in turn, enhancing their productivity at work.
Decentralisation not only empowers the workforce but also allows the organisation to tap into diverse demographics of talent. It aids in exploring a larger talent pool and helps both professionals and businesses address a major roadblock in acquiring talent - geographical boundaries. Not only does it open up new avenues for the organisation, but it also presents individuals from different backgrounds with equal opportunities irrespective of their location, thereby promoting inclusivity and diversity.
While a diversified workforce comes with many advantages, it also makes it even more important for the organisation to be mindful of everyone’s needs. Different people may have different needs, ranging from childcare, elderly care, to house chores and mental health. These needs vary based on the socio-economic environment and work challenges of individuals, and organisations must be considerate of these differences while devising policies catering to their employees.
A diverse workforce also fosters cultural development within the organisation. Working from different locations allows for a more digitally integrated and inclusive workforce, enabling companies to tap into diverse perspectives, join the dots, and move towards the same goals. This fosters a collaborative attitude among teammates, while also placing value to individual efforts and inputs. In fact, collaboration shines in a remote setting as everyone is on an equal footing as opposed to the times when those at the HQ or in the meeting room had an upper hand. Now, everyone makes it a point to hear everyone. With async collaborations and silent meetings, even introverts get to share their best ideas and everyone benefits.
Yes, time zones and different countries can pose challenges, but these can easily be overcome as teams from varied geographies can work remotely while leveraging technology to stay connected virtually. Moreover, technical and social mobility presents today’s workforces with the freedom to go where they want to work instead of staying where work originates. Thus, digital workplaces and virtual collaborations will also help in optimising resources.
The absence of common physical grounds is likely to lead us to rethink our modus operandi of engaging and communicating with our teammates stationed across boundaries. The fast-evolving and dynamic scenarios have enabled us to be more creative in the way we connect and at the same time emphasised the need to cultivate allyship.
Organisations have been employing innovative and creative techniques to stay in touch with their employees. At Twitter, we have taken several initiatives in this regard. While doing so, our focus has remained on both, humanising and normalising decentralised working.
- ‘Storytime with Staff’ is a new initiative to keep children engaged while parents can take some time off. Every week for an hour, people gather their children around the laptop as a member of the Twitter leadership reads one of his/her favourite childhood books to the little ones. The first session was a rollercoaster of emotions as Jack (Dorsey) read two stories, one of them written by him when he was four. Such initiatives not only offer support but also connect the teams more intimately, making geographical borders and work-home boundaries disappear.
- We also have mental health counselors available to employees and have established support networks that address a broad range of issues, taking into account the unique needs of our Tweeps (Twitter employees). Our Business Resource Groups (BRGs) help us shape and inform our policies and programmes. BRGs like @TwitterAsians, @TwitterParents, @TwitterWomen and many others help Tweeps from across the globe come together to share personal experiences of how they’ve been impacted and what support they need.
- We are committed to showing up for each other and the community, #UntilWeAllBelong. Checking-in with colleagues and partners is an absolute must for any leader today. We held the first-ever remote #TwitterForGood Day as employees gave back to their communities around the globe. We celebrated the day with virtual kick-offs, and Jack led our global activations by hosting live Q&A sessions with non-profit partners around the world.
- In India, we organise weekly #HappyHours and invite teams from our three offices (Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore) to catch-up over a beverage that makes them happy. These provide a sense of comfort and offer some after-hours laughs.
Working from home or a remote working culture is bound to revolutionise the manner in which professionals function. By challenging traditional methods, this culture will enable employees to interact and engage with colleagues beyond their specific teams. Digital avenues have paved the way for seamless connecting across geographies, thus empowering us with the liberty to work from anywhere via our smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. In fact, one of the biggest surprises of the last quarter was our high team engagement scores, which were significantly higher than last year, despite not a single in-person interaction due to the complete nationwide lockdown.
As we adapt to this culture built on choices, we are also cultivating the practice of independent thinking, the emergence of new work ethics and are preparing to deal with difficult situations in the boldest manners.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.