Business owners have been avoiding remote work for years over worries of lack of control and productivity loss. With the COVID-19 pandemic on our heels, however, much of the workforce is forced to work from home, and people are starting to see that it actually works. Skip Weisman, an accomplished author, speaker, entrepreneur, and leadership and workplace communication expert at Your Championship Company, joins Brian Powers to discuss how remote work can work with effective workplace communication. Working remotely for more than a decade, Skip can attest to the benefits that remote work can have on employees in terms of work flexibility, work satisfaction, and productivity. Join in and learn how to make your remote workplace work as we embrace the new normal in the world of work.
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Making Your New Remote Workplace Work With Skip Weisman
Welcome, Skip Weisman. He’s an accomplished author, speaker, a friend and fellow networker. Your Championship Company, tell us a little bit about everything you’re doing with your company.
I have to say I help pre-championship companies and helping a business owner between 6 or 7 employees on up to about 100-size companies to create championship work environments. To give people that are more positive coming to work, they are more motivated and they are much more productive. That leads to higher profitability in a company. I do that in a number of different ways. I do onsite consulting. I do individual one-on-one executive coaching with a business owner. I also facilitate a lot of conversations in the work environment to help bridge that gap. If companies have that “us versus them” mentality between management and workers, bridge that gap with different types of communication processes, techniques, and building a championship team.
I use that metaphor because there is a lot of similarity between success in sports and success in business. The Jets or Giants or whatever your favorite football or baseball team is here in the area that we’re all disappointed. There’s not much action going on in the field these days, but if you think about that metaphor, what it takes to win the Super Bowl or win in the World Series, it’s the same strategy it takes to achieve your goals for your company’s revenue, profits and growth. I use that philosophy. Most business owners like metaphor and analogy.
I know that you’ve written your own book Overcoming the 7 Deadliest Communication Sins. I know you have a webinar coming up and planning for that, but let’s talk about the new normal. What you’re seeing not only with your clients but out there in the workforce in general?
There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear on everybody aside from the business owner to the employees. When it comes to communication and leading a company and leading a team of people, it all comes down to communication. What can we, as business leaders, do to alleviate that fear and uncertainty as best we can? On a global issue or our entire global life, what we have to worry about, there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty there. From a business owner’s perspective, what I try and do is to help the business owner communicate, to create some certainty in some part of the employees and the companies.Communicate. Figure out what the right cadence is for your organization. Click To Tweet
“I can’t fix everything for you, Brian. If you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on in your life and the world is crazy, but let me give you some comfort and certainty in this area of your life and work life.” That’s to be the job of the business owner. In order to do that, you have to communicate as transparently as possible. Oftentimes, that’s difficult for a business owner because we haven’t been trained to do that. We haven’t thought in that way, but the number one thing that’s going to come out of this is business owners and hopefully in political leaders, depending on what level they’re at, talking much more transparently about what’s going on.
What I know that’s going to change. I’m going to be truthful with you and transparent with what I know and be as transparent as possible and ask for help and be okay being vulnerable. I don’t have all the answers for this business, for our business, for our company, but I think everybody can agree that two heads are better than one. It’s difficult to stop one person in their own little isolation chamber as we all are in now versus if you had 25 people all thinking creatively and brainstorming. What can we do differently? You’ve seen some things already with how people were pivoting their companies to serve in a different way than ever before.
Companies who never visit new restaurants would never have thought they could do takeout or figuring out how to do that. We’re going back to World War II, when the manufacturing companies retool to serve the military. We are now doing that. The advertising specialty companies I know and embroider companies are retooling to make masks. There are lots of things that companies can do if you get the brainpower of your people. Unfortunately, for too long, business owners have been stuck to what I call the business owners’ or business leader’s isolation chamber.
Before we had to isolate ourselves, I’m talking about if they were running your business many years ago, up until now, business owners have a tendency to create their own little isolation chamber. What I mean by that is they think that they have to have all the answers and know it all. They keep a lot of things to themselves. They keep the company strategy to themselves and try to implement and go out little pieces of what you need to know. All you need is this one piece of it because that’s all you should care about.
We don’t talk about the bigger picture of the company where we are going. Most of my clients when I first started working with them, I’m amazed by the fact that how little do employees know what the business owner is thinking about the company, where it’s going, and what the future holds. When I dig deeper into the coaching with the client, I realized that they’re unsure of themselves as well. They haven’t thought through what their vision or strategy for the company is. They’re all going by day-by-day. It creates this conundrum between both sides, the employees and the business owners. The business owner, because of that, sees employees that are unmotivated. They work day-to-day. All they care about is the paycheck.
I have to light a fire under them to do things. They don’t take the initiative. They see nothing beyond this week’s paycheck, but that’s caused by the flip side. When I interview the employees, when I do my cultural assessment to start my engagements, I hear how disappointed the employees are because they don’t see the business owner with any future vision or anything that’s compelling for the future. “I don’t know where the company is going, so I just go day-by-day.” It happened on both sides and we have to get out of that. My work is helping the business owners see the bigger picture and communicate that bigger picture to create what I call the championship game vision. “What’s your Super Bowl? What’s your World Series that’s going to get employees excited about helping you to achieve it?”
It’s amazing when you share those types of things. That’s a long answer to those who can bring out what I hear now is that when we’re scared, we need to create some certainty in whatever way we can. Whatever a small part of our world that we can, business owners have an opportunity to do that for putting a way on the business side of things. The way you give people certainty is to give people more control in whatever way we can. Let’s get them involved in talking about what’s going on with the company instead of knee jerk reactions and having vulnerable, humble conversations that a lot of business owners aren’t used to. That’s the big thing. The second thing all about this webinar I’m creating for folks that are in my sphere, my clients, and people that follow me and subscribe to my blog that I think you want to do with some folks near your world is this whole move to remote work environments.
You’re a remote work veteran. You are working from home since 2007.
It’s an old hat to me, but it’s new to a lot of organizations. Many companies, many organizations have resisted allowing people to work remotely from wherever. Most of it’s a home office, but it can be anywhere. It could be a beach in Tahiti. Where all it matters with technology now. Many companies have resisted and were fearful of it. If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, you’re not working, you’re bingeing Netflix, or you’re renovating your bathroom or whatever on company time, I’m still paying. I’ve been amazed at hearing and seeing how many people were working remotely and there were figuring it out and it’s working.
My wife is a government employee. She works for Dutchess County. Never in a million years would anybody think that government employees would be working remotely from home. They’re expected to be at their best for 75 hours a day, five days a week, and work those hours. You’re not working unless you’re there and I see you. If you’re taking a break or you’re going to lunch or you have a meeting, you better sign in or you better sign out because that’s got to be tracked. This transition was a little freaky, but people in management, they know their environment.Research shows that remote work leads to significant increase in productivity and employee satisfaction. Click To Tweet
They’re making it work and they’re figuring out, “It’s not as bad as I thought it was.” People care, people do want to work. They may be working on a little more flexible schedule. They may be taking a longer lunch, maybe they’re going out and they’re taking a walk around to get out of the house for a few minutes if the weather is nice, but they’re still getting stuff done and they’re still meeting their commitments in a virtual way. This is going to change a lot of attitudes around the remote work when we come out to this.
You saw a lot of big companies before they started pulling back their remote workers. IBM is one of them. These are all companies that were at the forefront of it, but now they’ve been thrown from the frying pan into the fire with what’s going on and had to make it work. At the firm, we’re converting over to cloud-based software. Most of our folks were on laptops, anyway. We were able to progress into this well, but there are a lot of companies out there that had to work a little harder to make it work. I think you’re going to see coming out of this some different ways to look at things for companies and options for employees.
I have a client. It’s a manufacturing company with about 25 employees. Two-thirds of those are in the machine jobs. They have 15 to 17 people in machine jobs, 6, 7, 8 people at the office. Everybody at the office is now working from home and the CEO, he was the technical side. It’s the first week of the shutdown or maybe it was the last week of March. It took the whole week and one day at a time to his employee’s home and set them up for remote work. It’s changing the way we’re going to be doing business and people are going to be that.
It drives back to what you said in the beginning and the basis of what you teach in the communication side of things. Now more than ever, you have to be cognizant of that and almost over-communicate.
Figure out what the right cadence is for your organization. That’s what the webinar is about. We can offer your folks and go in-depth about some strategies. I’ve been researching this a lot in the last few weeks, doing a lot of reading with companies who have done this well for a long time and they’ve got some good strategies and techniques. I’m going to dive into on the webinar. What’s more important than that for this conversation is understanding what the reality is for remote work and what research is showing. It’s fascinating. If you look at the world and who’s working remotely based on 2017 figures, only 7% of the US workforce are working remote.
I know people have some issues with comparing ourselves to Europe and in many different ways. In Denmark, 23% of people work remotely and that definition means they work from home several times per month. It’s not like all the time. They have enough flexibility, they can work from home several times per month and probably a couple of times a week. That may relate to the fact that they say Denmark are the happiest people in the world. Maybe, there’s something to this. The Netherlands, it’s 21%, Sweden, 18%, for the American, it’s only 7%.
If you look at who in the United States is working remotely, it’s the higher levels of personnel. It’s the management, it’s the business financial people, professional-related services. You’re earning more than $50 per hour. If you’re earning $15 per hour, you’re not. If you look at who those workers are, those are frontline workers, cashiers, restaurant workers and things like that. Those types of jobs, you have to be outside. If you’re a machinist in a machine shop, it’s tough to be remote. It’s tough to serve somebody a breakfast at the diner in remote. Those jobs will always probably have to be that way, but looking for ways that you can work remotely.
In 2014, there was a great research project by Stanford University and a company in China. This is a call center, 16,000 employees in for a travel agency in China. They had a nine-month pilot program to see if remote work could work for them and people would be productive. With call centers, they have stringent productivity guidelines. Usually, everything on the calls is timed and they’ve got to get people on and off the phone. It’s well-documented as far as the productivity of workers. The project was they asked for volunteers from the company and took a group of volunteers and still randomly selected who got to work from home.
Not everybody who volunteered got to work at home. They are going to do random sampling. What they found from the people that were out of the work at home for nine months is that productivity improved by 13%. People work 9% more minutes per shift, and they took more calls per minute on average from working remotely. Employee attrition, which in a call center is high, fell by 50% in the control group of the remote work. People were happier because they could work remotely from home and on their own schedule and stuff.
Total productivity overall, they say improved 20% and 30% and saved $2,000 from the employee working from home per year. They loved the output and they decided to expand the program to the whole company and that whoever wanted to buy into those programs. When they did that, 50% of the volunteers who worked from home decided to go back on site. The moral to the story is working from home and working remotely is not for everybody. You’ve got to have the mindset, you’ve got to have the systems in place, and you have to have the personality to want that.Wherever they are working from, most people want to do a good job and they will. You just have to communicate more. Click To Tweet
Fifty percent decided that wasn’t for them, they wanted to go back, work on-site, and they were fine with that. The fact that if you will allow people to work remotely, the whole world is going to fall apart and your company is going to be decimated and people are going to be twiddling their thumbs renovating their bathrooms or watching Netflix isn’t true. People want to do a good job. They want to have value. They want to make a difference in the world and know that their life makes a difference. Most people want to do a good job and they will. You have to communicate more. We’ll talk about how to do that on the webinar.
There’s still that need for interaction. I agree with you. You see these doomsday articles of how office buildings are going to shutter and people aren’t going to want to come back to work. I know a handful of folks in my office that’ll be running back to the office because they want that and they want their structure and all. I’m lucky. We have a house with an office off the kitchen. You look like you have a nice office set up in your house, but some folks are working off the dining room table. They’re going to want to migrate back to the office, into the water cooler.
That’s the biggest thing that people were concerned with is that human interaction. This is great. “I love talking to you and seeing your face,” but still it’s nothing like being in a room together to solve. We lose that human connection. Most people want that. I do believe there will be some adjustments to commercial real estate space. You’re not going to need the reviews, big offices that everybody has. It might be contracted a little bit to accommodate more. There’s still going to be people wanting to want to go to the office and want interaction. If you could have more flexibility that can work from home maybe two days to adapt to certain things and maybe have to workforce remotely and the other half, not on alternating days. To get people more flexibility, more control, and more autonomy over how they live and work. That’s huge as we move into this third decade of the 21st century.
We implemented it for accountants, it was a ten-hour max per week that they could work from home. That meant if they wanted to end the day early and then finish it up later on in the day, that was fine. It will offer them that flexibility and employees were appreciative. You almost have to slowly, you can’t just rip the Band-Aid. This is an extraordinary circumstance we’re in. Coming out of this, we’ll have some lessons learned and be able to grow.
Dip your toe and when you play with it, see what works, see what you like about it, what you don’t like about it, and then you adjust from there and you can expand.
Those are the things you’re going to cover in this webinar?
A little more on the research and we’ll talk about more specific strategies about what some of the historical companies that are doing it, have been doing it, and are doing it well with what they’ve seen and what they’ve found. I created this thing called the ROI method for remote work environments. How to get an ROI through this ROI? We’ll talk about the ROI method, which is about shifting how business owners are communicating with their employees to make it work to get that ROI, if you cannot communicate much more consistently and much more direct and candidly about expectations. We’ll talk about how and what the ROI method is. I would allow you to do that.
You’ve been generous enough to set up a webinar for our folks. We’ll send out an email blast promoting it that folks can sign up, learn more, and figure out the work from home structure. Make it better. Let’s put it that way.
Make it better and make it stick even after this goes because people are going to learn on both sides whether the business owners, leaders, and the employees that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be. They can be maybe even more productive and save some money.
Thank you, Skip Weisman, Your Championship Company. We appreciate your time and we’ll definitely look forward to learning more on the webinar.
Thanks for having me, Brian. I look forward to it. I’ll see you next time.
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