When Work Gets Weird: A Bottom-Up Approach to Change Management

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If you’re getting worn out on Zoom meetings, you’re not the only one.

For knowledge-based workers who started working from home in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, videoconference tools provide a great opportunity to continue working and keep things moving as normal.

Except nothing was — or is — normal.

Businesses have lost customers, employees have lost energy and motivation in a new work environment, and managers have lost a ton of productivity.

When the workflow you’re used to shifts drastically, there are intangibles that affect your output. Tools that enable essential functions like communication and project management are just the tip of the iceberg. Your organization also needs a change management strategy. And that’s something you can’t just buy with a monthly subscription.

Keep reading to learn about the framework businesses can use to become more resilient in the face of rapidly changing environments — whether employees are working from home or from the moon.

Becoming Resilient in An Ever-Changing World

A graph showing the U.S. unemployment rate from 2012 to 2020

Causing a nearly 15% spike in unemployment in the U.S. — the lowest since 1939 — the COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how fragile some companies are and how quickly they can be put out of business.

The health crisis didn’t create this fragility, it only unearthed it.

But make no mistake, there are companies that not only don’t shut down during a recession but thrive during it.

Airbnb launched in the midst of the 2008 financial crisis and was receiving funding from top-tier venture capital firms within the year. After launching in 1997 near the end of the dotcom bubble, Netflix tried to sell their business to Blockbuster for $50 million in 2000. After being turned down, they flipped the script and put the video store chain out of business.

It can be done. And one of the best ways to join the ranks of these resilient businesses is developing a framework that empowers your team to ride out the storm no matter how weird work gets.

A 5-Part Framework to Empower Your Team

Illustration of "A 5-Part Framework to Empower Your Team"

While you can never innoculate your organization 100% against industry disruption, you can work to build a framework of fundamentals to keep your business healthy and resilient no matter the threat.

1. Define Explicit Expectations

When things get tough, you want all hands on deck. What you don’t want is everybody running around like headless chickens trying to brute force their ways out of a bad situation.

Somebody needs to take charge to assess the situation and determine what to prioritize — and that somebody needs to be defined beforehand. Their job will be to figure out which high-impact actions are best to take, assign each of these actions to the right employees, and manage them all the way through completion or until the crisis has passed.

2. Acquire Tools of the Trade

If you’re asking your team to work in new environments and hit new targets, you need to equip them with the right tools so they can execute on new directives. We mentioned Zoom for keeping communication between your team flowing, but you’ll likely need a bit more infrastructure to truly thrive.

Can’t use couriers to drop off important documents for signatures? Have you tried electronic signatures that help manage the execution of important documents?

What about project management? Sure, everybody has some way of tracking their work, but have you invested in something that will let you pursue a truly asynchronous remote work model?

If this is the new normal, it’s worth taking a deeper look at how your organization values and empowers the way work gets done.

3. Develop a State of Flow

Athletes refer to the state of flow as “the zone.” The basketball hoop seems to get bigger, the bowling pins seem to easily fall over, and the game just comes naturally to you.

In corporate culture, the state of flow is more about everyone executing the tasks that they’re best at and that they enjoy. Their tasks challenge them, push their creativity, and leave them with an incredible feeling of accomplishment — basically, the polar opposite of the movie Office Space.

Do you think that your team operates primarily in a state of flow? Why or why not?

Managers who look to create systems at work that enable flow will reap productivity and innovation even in the midst of change.

4. Win Organizational Buy-In on Your Mission

Organizational buy-in is important for the success of any company, any time. But when things get tough, it’s paramount.

If money was no object, would your team still want to work for your business? Do they even know what the mission of the company is?

When you consider that mission-driven employees are 54% more likely to stay at a company for over five years and 30% more likely to be high performers than their counterparts, there is always room to educate your staff on all of the good things your company does and the people it helps.

And if you, or your team, feels the company is lacking on your mission — make it collaborative! It can’t hurt to have something to bond over before or throughout a big change.

5. Commit to Quality

When somebody’s reality spins out of control, quality is the first thing to go. It’s extremely difficult to pay attention to your work when you feel there are so many other, more pressing events happening in the world.

If your business is going to make it through hard times, high-quality work is not something that can be encouraged by increased oversight or bureaucracy. No, high-quality work needs to be something that every team member executes at an individual level — almost as if it’s a part of their personality.

Do you see somebody on your team who isn’t committed to high-quality work, even in good times? Get to the bottom of it quickly. You want to make sure every member of your team understands that quality work is non-negotiable — both now and if times get tough.

Overall, nothing about building a resilient organization is easy. If it were, companies wouldn’t go out of business. Join the Netflixes and Airbnbs of the world and make the most of workplace weirdness by developing a team that’s always ready to roll with the punches. And to keep your finger on the pulse of change in the business world, stay tuned to the HelloSign blog.

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