Blue Oceans Consulting: Advantages and disadvantages of remote teams during COVID-19
Task: Ocean Consulting is a specialist consulting firm started just over 10 years ago by Jim Killen, an older, very commercially-focused Australian man who is an excellent engineer and marketer. Jim is the business owner and CEO and his priority has been winning work and responding to client expectations, to grow the business but he has not paid much attention to building organisational culture, or sound human resource systems, as his business has grown.
The firm began doing consulting work associated with seaports, with an initial focus on the design of wharfs. As Jim saw opportunities, the firm grew to specialise in the design of off-shore structures for the oil and gas industry. Their work expanded in more recent years to include remote monitoring of the structural health and the wave forces acting on these structures and then into the design of power stations harnessing wave energy. Most recently there was a demand for work on environmental impacts associated with ports and so the firm took on staff with relevant expertise and changed its name to ‘Blue Ocean Consulting’.
Blue Ocean Consulting is now a medium-sized Australian engineering consultancy with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. The business has also established small offices in Singapore and Fiji to serve some of its international clients.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business now needs to implement, as quickly as possible, remote working arrangements, to facilitate consulting engineering staff working remotely in teams, from home, with team members who may be based in any of the four state offices, who have not previously worked together, and may not know each other. Teams will range from 3-8 persons, who represent a diverse demographic (e.g. gender/sex, age, experience, capability, culture, religion, etc).
You are a graduate engineer based in the Melbourne office of Blue Oceans Consulting. The business owner/CEO is aware of your having recently studied professional practice in your Masters of Professional Engineering at Monash University, including having studied strategic and critical thinking, teamwork and remote teams, and leadership. He recently read an article that stated: “Teams in 21st century organisations are autonomous, multi-skilled, and interdependent, focused on achieving shared objectives, based on cohesive relationships of trust, and may be face to face or virtual."
Given your expertise, he is hoping you understand the implications of that quote and can help guide the company in this time of transition. Jim is aware of the need to develop (as a matter of urgency) the business’s Policy and Guidelines for Remote Teams, and fostering commitment to shared objectives. In his capacity as CEO, Jim has asked you to write a report addressing the following questions:
1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote teams, compared to face to face teams?
2. How can personal relationships be built in the absence of face to face socialising, which has been his past practice, which the CEO believes is essential to people supporting each other in their work?
3. What steps should the business take to maximise individual and team performance and ultimately success? Consider motivation and other factors impacting team effectiveness.
4. Having “always treated all of his people in the same way”, what are the issues he needs to address in dealing with diversity, which he has previously ignored?
5. Given that team members are currently distracted with personal worries, and that younger team members are constantly distracted by mobile phones, how can the business reduce distraction and optimise concentration on the task at hand? (The CEO has heard of mindfulness, but has no idea what it really is). Consider any new distractions which exist in virtual/remote workspaces.
Under the current scenario of this pandemic COVID-19, working people are gradually getting anxiety, hopelessness and depression. It is affecting their mental and physical efficiency. Hence the Blue Ocean Consulting should first focus upon educating and training its employees for improving their mindfulness, self-motivation and self-management skills with regular online sessions of Yoga or meditation and making it a routine in their daily lives.
Diversity of the Human Resource:
After we recover from COVID-19, the Global business and economics scenario will change significantly, the company must understand the importance of strategizing the organization's plans and decisions accordingly. Although it is difficult to predict the severity of the global economic downfall, the company must diversify and prepare its team for the worst.
Improving individual efficiency and teamwork is necessary for enhancing the overall performance of the team. Good leadership is the need of the hour to motivate and drive confidence among the team members. Performance-based perks and incentives are the keys to boost the morale of credible employees (Burgess, 2019).
Since, team building activities or incentive programs are limited to outdoor activities, which are out of scope until the lockdown state of the world, the company has to rely on the remaining online resources. Online training, QA sessions and introductions are required among the team members for the initial know-hows for both the new and old employees. The company must appoint the human resource to recognize its finest leaders who will be delegated for the process of regular addressing of the members online. The online sessions must address the employees in a way such that they feel more secured and regain confidence in the organization.
Steps to maximize the individual and team performance:
- Classify the entire employee force in terms of their management and dexterity skills and provide them online task rosters and assignments based on their skill sets.
- Do regular video conferencing on assessment and skill recognizing of the employees.
- Interactive sessions with relevant industry specialists and known motivators TED talk should be added in the daily rosters to motivate the team members and mitigating the impact of the ongoing economic recession.
- Servent based leadership is required to recover from the current scenario. HR must ensure to find such credible persons.
- Channelize the knowledge base by employing the senior staffs to lead the skill-based training sessions.
- Regular motivation, meditation and yoga sessions need to be introduced in the weekly roster and should be a mandate for every employee. HR should hire relevant professionals for leading these classes.
- Most of the companies are curtailing employee force to survive the financial crunch, that is the major cause of concern for employees right now. The company must decide the fate of its employee strategically. It will determine the company's future relationship with its employees, stakeholders and maintaining the overall brand reputation in the market.
- The leaders must hone their communication skills further as leading a team online is a whole new level of challenge that awaits them ahead. The reasoning, critical thinking and mindfulness of the leaders will play a vital role in efficiently leading the team remotely.
- Like most of the companies under the current COVID-19 scenario, the salaries of the employees will get reduced. As a result, the morale of the employees will be affected, the company should use innovative ways to mitigate the effect by helping them with their bills and rents. It will favor the company to gain an emotional and sentimental advantage among its employees and retain their loyalty.
- The company should include performance-based rewards to motivate and create a competitive environment among the employees. It will break the monotony and encourage them to overcome stiff challenges (Wechsleret al. 2018).
Advantages and Disadvantages of interaction between Remote teams:
- The fast pace of corporate work-life had already affected employees’ personal lives, as many of them succumbed to the work pressure and often complained that it is affecting their personal lives and relationships. Previously, it was limited to working hours after which the person peacefully goes back home and attend to their personal life, until now, when the same person has to take both the household chores and work responsibilities simultaneously and attend to work at odd times as well. The employees must get accustomed to this new routine and redefine the concept of enjoying the work-life balance (Kusunoseet al. 2020).
- Face to face communication used to be mandatory for attending to critical issues, consulting, convincing clients and while taking important decisions with peers, as human beings rely upon facial expressions and gestures to observe the intent of the other person. But due to the current scenario, face to face conversation had become out of scope, making it very difficult to suffice the experience by replacing it with communication via online video conferences (Zahra andRiaz, 2018).
- As per statistics working professionals tends to waste 1/3rd of their lives while getting stuck in traffic. As per the current scenario, we are saving a lot of effort, time and money, we otherwise waste in our daily lives due to our busy lifestyle such as stuck at traffic, going to pubs, restaurants after work. We might get socially disconnected, but modern technology ensures that we can effectively communicate with our colleagues via the online medium.
- Previously the employee has to log out of their system and leave the work in the workplace. But now, since they have to work from home, the complete system was redesigned for resuming their work without exposing company secrets. Hence, the conventional techniques for maintaining company secrecy, within the organization, have been redefined permanently. The employees must be trained, for quickly getting accustomed to the new system and encouraged to practice loyalty towards the company (Ma and Teasdale, 2004).
Building personal relationships:
The world will never be the same after we recover from this pandemic, as the basic skills that we have acquired until now, to thrive our business and work lives, may not be much useful due to the volatile economic conditions. There may be major changes to which we have to adjust and improvise accordingly (Salamzadeh, Bidaki and Vahidi, 2018).
From the beginning of time, when there was no telephones or mobile phones for interaction, we have relied upon face to face communication. Thanks to the discovery of internet and smartphones, we can now scale unparalleled distances within seconds and communicate face to face from one country to another (Crapset al. 2019).
Moreover, it is impossible to provide the human touch towards work by working remotely. But we are out of options right now. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought the economy on its knees. Blue Ocean Consultancy needs a solid contingency plan to survive the pandemics repercussion by taking valid steps ahead of the economic recession that awaits us.
The current scenario of COVID-19 is forcing us to return to our roots. For instance, we are spending quality time with our family, calling old friends, eating home-cooked meals, maintaining hygiene in our daily lives, practicing yoga and meditation, due to the lockdown.
COVID-19 had forced us to stay back home and gave us all the time we deserve, to take a break and retrospect our lives and explore the other perspectives in maintaining work-life balance.
Working from home is an entirely different experience for the employees, which implies the original working environment, cannot be recreated by working remotely. The office premises had provided a suitable environment for the employees that kept them occupied without feeling fatigued. Working from home has many issues that are difficult to deal with, such as laziness, distraction due to social networking sites, household chores or other engagements. It is important to deal with this problem by encouraging the employees for practicing techniques of mindfulness (Nathan, 2015). Mindfulness is the fundamental human sense to be fully present, conscious of where we are and what we’re doing, by not overreacting or getting overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. If the employees successfully introduce and practice this technique, it could help them to remain calm, stable and focus towards their work.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: Due to the current prevailing situation of the pandemic, people are uncertain about their future, lives and fulfilment of their ambitions. By doing regular meditation and yoga, they can significantly reduce their anxiety level.
- Immunity towards illness: Study says that depressed and mentally anxious people are more vulnerable to health disorders. In order to fight this pandemic, people need to be mentally and physically fit at all times.
- Provide Support and Boost Resilience: No matter how tough the situation becomes; we need to hold it together and keep depression away. Yoga and meditation help to rebuild our confidence and will power, and makes us self-dependent. This pandemic had taught us several lessons, one of which is never taking things for granted (Segaland Teasdale, 2018).
From the above solution, it can be concluded that this pandemic is harsh on everyone, the uncertain future of the world economy had put everyone on their knees, in these difficult times, the team members need all the motivation and positive vibes in their lives, more than ever. Blue Ocean Consultancy must assemble all the resources in its possession and fight the situation with everything they have got.
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