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Shattering Organisational Culture to Embrace Remote Work

Despite remote work increasingly becoming the norm, the reality is that organisational culture cannot be changed overnight. It will involve both a shift in mindset and new approaches to measuring productivity.

This was the central theme of a recent Central Bank of Barbados’ 2020 Caribbean Economic Forum, “The Future of Work is Here” which featured experts in the areas of productivity, labour and Human Resources Management.

“We need to shift from a culture that measures input to a culture that measure results,” says Dr. Carmen Pagés-Serra, Chief of the Labour Markets Division of the Inter-American Bank. She argues that “what matters is it gets done and it gets done at the level of expectancy and quality that we discuss,” adding that this involves “being able to define what results mean, what success looks like, what high productivity looks like, and then come back and see if the individual or organisation has met those goals or not.”

Despite some businesses’ scepticism about remote working, Pagés-Serra reiterates that modern organisations must focus on the way work is done rather than where it is done. Speaking to employers, she challenged, “If they work more efficiently that way, why should we worry? Let them work that way.”

Wayne Chen, President of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation believes that there are challenges but also opportunities with remote work. While admitting “there are going to be some casualties”, he considers this “the creative destruction of capitalism on the market.”

“Organisations need to find ways to measure output and to understand that wasting an hour in traffic in the morning and evening is a negotiation you may well have with a worker.”

He sees this as a discussion that must also be held at the level of the social partnership. The outcome of these efforts will depend on “realistic sacrifice” and, in the case of the region’s current economic challenges, all parties’ commitment to working together to “pull each other out of the crisis.”

“It is not just an economic transformation that we are seeing, we are witnessing a social transformation and I think both go hand in hand. That discussion can take us to new places...better than we were before. But it is going to require a bigger conversation.”

With much of the concern about remote work being centred on how businesses can be sure workers are actually working, Dr. Rochelle Haynes, a Barbadian International Human Resources Management Specialist and Gig HR Expert offered a blunt assessment.  “If you have to question whether or not you can trust your employees if you can’t see them, there is something wrong with the organisational culture.”