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Change management guidance for sustaining a remote or hybrid work environment

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Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has required agencies to utilize telework for a continuity of operations with their employees. This has resulted in an opportunity for agencies to assess increased telework and the demands of a hybrid work environment on a more permanent basis.

Goal of this guidance

To successfully implement telework in the workplace, a sound organization change management plan must be implemented at the same time. The goal of this document is to provide OCM guidance related to supporting employee telework within state agencies.

For an organization to be successful, the guidance on this page must coincide with practicing and encouraging empathy, equity, and inclusion for all employees, at all stages of change. That means working with employees, recognizing their unique needs, and seeking to provide access to flexible workplace arrangements with fairness and consistency. Agencies must keep in mind that not all employees have the same benefits of income, internet access, space at home, dedicated alternate care for dependents, etc. Some employees may not be able to telework depending on these factors, but in some cases may be able to work remotely with appropriate organizational support. Agencies should provide both access and support consistently for all staff.

This guidance seeks to provide information for the various roles an employee may have within the organization:

Employee – Anyone who performs duties or services for an organization in exchange for compensation or something of value.

Supervisor – An employee who holds a position within an organization with supervisory/management responsibilities.

Agency Leadership – An employee who is in an executive leadership position within an organization.

About the guidance structure

The guidance on this page is largely structured around the Prosci ADKAR model. This OCM model has five key milestones: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Each of these milestones are sequential and cumulative. This proven model of OCM provides structure and tangible guidance for employees and organizations to be successful in their journey through the change that comes with expanded telework.

In each section below, a brief description of each milestone is provided. By clicking the link at the bottom of each section, you'll be able to open up additional steps, guidance, potential risks and ways to mitigate those risks. Please visit the resource area of this page below to find tips, tools, and templates.

Awareness

When the organization begins the process of offering long term telework options in the new work environment, you have to begin with the purpose. Specifically, what is the business case for the change? Failure to do so will likely lead to increased resistance and potential for overall failure. In the post-pandemic environment as many agencies shift to a hybrid model with more telework than before but some employees returning to the office, the awareness piece – the why for asking people to return or to sustain remote work – will need to be clear for workers.

Tips for building awareness

  1. Effective communication

    • Messaging needs to have appropriate context for the audience(s)
    • Provide opportunities for employees to give feedback
      1. What is the employee’s preferred amount of telework? What tools and resources are needed?
      2. What are ideas for keeping teams and the organization connected?
    • Provide clear information about work that needs to be performed on site
    • Identify the appropriate channels of communication
    • Ensure communication is accessible to all employees
  1. Effective sponsorship from agency leadership

    • Be visible and engaged with the progress around sustained telework
    • Be clear - what amount of remote work supports the organization in order to provide services?
    • Support supervisors/managers with transparent and timely communication
  1. Coaching managers and supervisors

    • Ensure appropriate training and coaching is available to manage mobile employees and maintain team cohesion with a teleworking team
  1. Accessible information

    • Use transparency to convey change and clarify policies

Potential risks and mitigation

By Identifying potential risks, anticipating changes, and continuous monitoring, the organization can be ready for potential resistance and risks.

  1. Employees view of current state

Risks: some employees within the organization may find telework, or the transition from telework back into the physical worksite, disruptive. Feelings of loss, anger, and not being heard can arise. Additionally, expectations and communication can potentially be unclear. All of these risks can create misinformation or rumors.

Mitigation:

  • Consistent one-on-one’s
  • Emphasize the “what’s in it for the organization” in communications
  • Ensure clarity around the “why”
  • Encourage managers/supervisors to coach employees through the changes
  • Provide “town hall” style opportunities to share information broadly
  • Create a SharePoint site or webpage to post all communication and resources
  1. Team adjustments

Risks: in the new hybrid workplace, teams will also have to adjust to new communication methods, “norms” and expectations, and approaches to collaboration. Feelings of exclusion, misunderstanding, frustration, or inequity could harm team morale.

Mitigation:

  • Have consistent team meetings, even if they are quick check-ins
  • Ensure that everyone has access to and training in the same communication tools
  • Ensure all employees on a team are included in meetings and important discussions, whether they’re onsite or remote.
  • Encourage employee input and involvement on meeting topics and delivery

Desire

Stopping at awareness is typically where organizations fail with change management. If employees and organizations feel forced into telework, or arbitrarily forced back into the office after effectively teleworking for a year, they will resist. Channeling the internal desire of the employee, addressing their autonomous motivation (their feeling of voice and choice) is a key first step.

The second step in desire is understanding the factors influencing the desire for change:

  • What’s in it for me?
  • What is the previous track record of changes with the organization or team?
  • What is the employee’s personal situation?
  • What is the employee’s personal values and motivators?
  • How will this change support our strategic objectives of the organization?

Tips for building desire for change

  1. Effective coaching from agency leadership

    • Agency leadership must be supportive and visible with “walking the talk”
    • Build a coalition of support and change agents to communicate the benefits of change
    • They should be able to speak knowledgeably to how decisions on sustained remote work versus onsite work are being made internally
    • Encourage flexibility while adapting to the transition of a hybrid telework situation
  2. Utilize managers/supervisors as change leaders

    • Encourage managers/leaders to create opportunities for employees to talk about the impacts of telework in the new workplace
  3. Engage employees in the process

    • Utilize direct methods of feedback and ownership in the change
    • Solicit ideas for improvement
    • Consistently engage with employees throughout the process
      1. Employees may need one-on-one, confidential space to engage with their supervisors, HR or other decision-makers. Some factors influencing employee needs and desire may not be things an employee wants to share in a group meeting

Knowledge

One of the most important aspects to telework and hybrid workplace change management is providing employees and teams the knowledge of how to transition and remain successful with teleworking, including when some employees are remote and some are onsite. Employee expectations and skills, the processes and systems, and necessary skills will be impacted but can easily be mitigated through knowledge building. See the “Learning Resources” section of this page below for more information on training resources.

Similar to desire, organizations must be mindful what influences knowledge-building:

  • What is the current level of knowledge around the change?
  • What are the resources available for education and training?
  • What tools may be leveraged to support daily work requirements?

Tips for increasing knowledge about change

  1. Effective training and education programs

    • Provide easily accessible and timely training
    • Offer opportunities to refresh knowledge
  2. Provide job aids

    • Utilize reference guides, checklists, and templates that support continued team cohesion and collaboration in a remote environment, effective work management for teleworkers, and other tips for maximizing productivity in a remote or hybrid environment
  3. One-on-one coaching

    • Have information available for who to contact with questions about the various areas of telework
  4. Utilize Groups and Forums

    • Provide a shared learning forum and/or environment to read and post questions. This can be an effective way to build knowledge and skills rapidly while also providing employees a connection to the team.
      1. Some employees may prefer to check in or ask questions outside of a group forum. Continue to provide alternative options.
      2. Allow for asynchronous (not at a specific time) access to such environments. Employees on different schedules or with different personal or professional demands should be afforded the chance to participate and not miss out on ways to connect with others

Ability

This is the part of the change management journey where awareness, desire, and knowledge give way to the action of the change. In the case of telework, this is where the transition to increased telework in the new work environment begins.

NOTE – To be successful in change management, patience is critical. The new work environment where some employees may be teleworking more than others will require flexibility and ability to adapt to new information. It will take time for everyone to adjust to the new situation and to begin to feel as productive and comfortable as they did before.

Tips for building an ability to change

  1. Day-to-day involvement of managers/supervisors

    • Consistent one-on-ones
    • Ensure managers/supervisors are knowledgeable about policies and resources available to the employee
    • Create environments that foster support for developing skills and new behaviors for teleworking
    • Establish lines of feedback to address gaps or concerns raised by employees
  2. Provide access to subject matter experts

    • Provide mentorships with newer employees on the team to help adjust to the team culture or to ask for quick guidance
  3. Adoption and performance monitoring

    • Set clear expectations around work responsibilities and communication while teleworking

Reinforcement

The last part of the ADKAR model is reinforcement of the change. With the change to increased telework in the new workplace, we have to recognize that behaviors and the way work is conducted will change. In order for telework and hybrid work to remain successful, organizations will need to be aware in making sure the arrangement is working and adjust if needed.

Questions to ask employees that can influence the change include:

  • Was this change meaningful?
  • What was achieved by the change?
  • Were there negative consequences?
  • Was there a system to monitor the progress of telework/hybrid work and its effects?
  • Are SMART metrics established to assess the quality of work being performed?

Tips for building reinforcement of change

  1. Communicate the successes of telework or onsite return

    • Share and build upon strategies that improved the process of telework or hybrid work
    • Identify personal stories of success to share
    • Have agency leadership communicate how the changes made the organization improve and thank employees for contributions
  2. Consistent feedback post-implementation

    • Set up polls or surveys for employees to provide feedback on how telework or hybrid work is going
    • Continue to create opportunities for employees to share improvement ideas
  3. Performance and accountability systems

    • Set clear expectations and desired outcomes for the organization and team
    • Create a workgroup to help elevate concerns or ideas with how teleworking is going
    • Have agency leadership communicate back how the organization is performing with telework and potential changes before they occur

Tools, Templates and Resources

WA State Mobile Work for Supervisors – Department of Enterprise Services

Washington State Learning Center – Department of Enterprise Services

Building a Modern Work Environment – Office of Financial Management

Workforce Development Toolkit – Modern work environment – WSDOT

Emergency Telework Resources – Office of Financial Management

 Recruitment guidance in response to COVID-19 – Office of Financial Management

Teleworking at DCYF – Department of Children, Youth, and Families

Remote work ergonomics guidance - Office of Financial Management

 

 

Last updated
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
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