It's time to retire the old and outdated narratives about remote work, hybrid work, and flexible work.

Is remote work temporary or here to stay? Are remote workers having fun or are they more productive? Is hybrid work a compromise between employees who want to work remotely and managers who don't?

These questions are out of date.

Remote and hybrid work, in fact, is here to stay.

So the only question that remains (which isn't asked often enough) is: how do we make remote work work better, for us and our organizations?

The remote and hybrid work trend is the most disruptive change in the way businesses work since the introduction of the personal computer and mobile devices.

Then, as now, the conversation got lost in the undergrowth. Should PCs be allowed? Should employees be allowed to bring their own devices? Should we provide employees with pagers, feature phones, and then smartphones or let them use their own?

Looking back, it's clear that all these concerns were totally unnecessary.

The PC revolution was a tsunami of certainty that would sweep away the old ways of doing everything. So the only question should have been: how do we ensure that these devices are autonomous, secure and usable?

All focus should have been on the organizations massive learning curve (how to deploy, upgrade, secure, provision, purchase and network these devices for maximum benefit)

And by end users (how to master spreadsheets, web search, content creation, syncing between devices, presentations, file sharing, and everything in between).

In other words, while everyone cringed about whether to allow devices, or what type or level of devices to allow, the energy could have been much better spent realizing that the whole issue was about skills and knowledge.

It should not have been about whether to use personal computing devices, but about how to use them effectively.

The truth is that remote work is a permanent reality.

This is true for remote workers, hybrid jobs, after-hours workers, workers on the go, business travelers, and others. So it's time to stop debating whether remote work is here to stay and start adjusting to the new reality.

Remote Work Skills: Employees

Meetings require various skills around best practices, speaking concisely and constructively, taking notes, presenting information, and persuasion. And those who are good at meetings have acquired these skills over time.

Remote meetings come with their own set of skills. And people are already learning them.

At first, remote workers were distracted, "multitasked" during meetings, and generally demonstrated a lack of experience and skill with video calls. However, the ability to stay engaged, participate in decision-making (rather than chat), and master the many remote meeting tools available reveals a skillful "meeting" remotely.

The most important skill set for remote work revolves around the psychology and process of working without direct and immediate supervision.

Skilled remote workers establish a process or system for getting to work, staying focused, managing distractions, and dealing with the psychology of working away from supervisors and coworkers.

Remote Work Skills: Organizational Leadership

Leaders also face a steep learning curve to master remote meeting skills.

And again, this is an area where improvement is already evident. Meetings are getting smaller and more frequent, which is the right way to go.

Many more one-on-one video meetings are taking place, many of them unscheduled, according to Andrew Brodsky, an assistant professor of management at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business at Austin.

Leaders are also discovering the benefits of better meeting technology: AI-powered tools, webcams, audio, systems, and asynchronous unified communication.

The old attitude of difference in video and audio quality is the mark of an unskilled amateur.

In-person meetings could have been limited to staying in the parking lot. But everyone has long understood that investing in advanced, easy-to-use equipment that speeds up the meeting results in high-quality meetings and better outcomes. The same goes for improving the experience of using digital tools in general.

The most important organizational leadership skill area that has yet to be mastered is managing remote workers.

Skillful managers learn to radically increase the frequency of shorter one-on-one meetings, consider the well-being of the whole person, accept the realities of flexible hours, and focus on results rather than the appearance of working through supervision.

Leaders must also master the skills to discover, test, deploy, and use the new world of remote-enabled tools around communication, security, employee management, and more.

It is time to put aside any false belief that remote work will return to pre-pandemic levels.

It's here to stay. And with that comes the requirement to master a wide range of new skills.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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