Corona outbreak: why companies should focus on output, not availability

By Angelique Slob | 24/03/2020

Angelique Slob is the founder of Hello Monday Club and as a “Remote Working Expert” partner of 2DAYSMOOD. From her experience she explains why “Smart Working” will help your employees to perform best during the Corona Outbreak.

At the time of writing this, we are experiencing the first consequences of the increasing numbers of the corona-virus cases in Europe and Northern-America.

In more and more regions and countries, schools and offices are closing, and companies are preparing for or moving to remote working for an extended period of time.

Moving the traditional company way to a Remote Set up is not the solution.

Moving from an office set up to a remote set-up overnight comes with challenges, although most people should be equipped to work from home for a limited time at least at a basic level.

However, since we are in extreme situations where public life has come to a halt and basic rights are postponed, we are facing new challenges and we have to fully understand that this is not a regular working context.

From a practical level, many employees will have to stay home with their children and spouse and are responsible for day-care as well. Maybe people have to build in certain time slots for taking care of their animals, going to the supermarket or pharmacy, or even seek medical care.

On top of that this unexpected, abnormal situation, where employees might need to juggle different responsibilities and might experience anxiety and uncertainty, could lead to increases stress and that has a negative effect on the immune system of your employees.

Companies need to focus on business continuity and to keep an eye on their employee’s well being as well.

Smart working as a solution

Most companies use “time and presence” as their default working paradigm – a left-over from the industrial blueprint that doesn’t serve companies with knowledge workers.

We expect our employees, more or less, to work 8 hours, during office hours, mostly from the office.

Moving that same, dysfunctional paradigm to a remote set up, especially in this time will lead to increased stress and leading to sick-leave or loss of productivity.

A solution is to move to “smart working”: focusing on results and letting go of the idea of a certain availability during office hours.

Although moving to a fully smart working company is not something that can be done overnight, you can set this up for the next month on an operational level to ensure your business continuity and employee performance and well-being.


Here is how to get started with Smart Working

1. Focus on specific key results to ensure business continuity

Align on the key-results that need to be delivered over the coming weeks, to make sure your employees will stay focused on the things that are most important for your organization. Make sure these key-results are crystal clear and keep an eye on the progress. Everything else comes second.

2. Give employees full carte blanche to decide when (and how) they deliver these results.

It isn’t realistic to expect employees who are parents to be full-time available during normal office hours. Let go of the idea of availability and schedules.

3. A-synchronous collaboration to improve flexibility

Switch to a-synchronous collaboration as much as you can. (Online) meetings will need to be avoided where possible and instead use a-synchronous tools to keep track and follow up, and create input.

4. Create a safe environment

It is important to create a psychologically safe environment where people feel trusted to deliver their results while having feel freedom to balance time, energy and family time, in a way it works best for them.  It is important to provide a safe employer/employee relationship where employees don’t have to feel guilty for not working when playing with their children or vice versa.

5. Have a coach/mentor available to help your employees

Next to the manager who should keep track of the results, I advise appointing a coach or mentor to whom your employees can reach out when they feel stuck or stressed in juggling their responsibilities, a-synchronous collaboration or anything related to their adjustment. It is advisable that this coach also does regular check-ins.

6. Communicate expectations very clearly

Create a policy and /or agreement where you list the key results stating the expectation is that employees have their responsibility to reach these results without having to follow work schedules or fixed hours. Add here that they should reach out in case they feel they are not able to deliver.

With such an agreement, you have a legal frame-work but more importantly, the employee will feel safer to actually schedule their own work times and let go of the idea that they need to spend 8 hours behind their laptop or to follow up on everything.

7. Measure results and employee well-being

Find a way to measure both results and well-being to be able to take additional measures where needed. This could be a weekly check-in to see where the results are at, and a tool such as www.2daysmood.com to get insights in engagement and energy levels.

Benefits of this approach

Moving to these tactics as a form of crisis management will help you with business continuity and your employees to stay onboard and perform well.

Compressed workday

Moving to an approach where you only focus on key results will lead to a “compressed workday” for your employees. They will need fewer hours to reach the key- results, (the things that matter most) and in combination with the skipped commute, day-care tasks are easier to fit in.

Increased wellbeing

Well-being increases because employees are capable of managing their own time and energy. They can minimize increase stress and be more creative.

And yes, spending time with their children will most likely increase their creativity!

You will have created a more effective and creative work environment, not only as a way to deal with the current situation but also for the long-term.

Long-term benefits

Based on the outcome of my academic research for the most effective organizational context for knowledge workers, I can assure you a highly autonomous organization where people are managed on results it the best for innovative organizations.

Read the summary of this research here: http://eepurl.com/dqnZdP

Implementing this approach is not only good to navigate these weeks (or months) of quarantine, but this might be a great opportunity to get out better and stronger on the other end.

This is an excellent opportunity to move towards a more results-driven, human-centered, innovative and effective organization.

Therefore I strongly recommend measuring and evaluate the results. Not only to reduce risks but also to take positive results from this crisis to the future – that can accelerate the overall business success. There will be lessons learned and certain elements that you want to integrate for the long-term.

Does this resonate with you? I have opened up a Mastermind Group for forward-thinking leaders Senior leaders and HR Directors to help them navigate this period of transition and crisis, but also discuss how we can create more agile, resilient, creative and effective organizations – to get out stronger at the other end. Contact me if you want to know more.

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