Self-management and flexible working have never been more important

In the last month or so, the working world has been completely upended for billions of people.

This situation is unlikely to return to normal any time soon, with some suggesting that perhaps we may never return to ‘normal’ working life.

Yet this enforced digitisation of work may in fact catalyse digital transformation efforts in many companies and lead to a much more flexible approach to work.

Only time will tell if this unanticipated and abrupt period of remote working will help or hinder the majority of organisations. But what is clear is that proper self-management has never been more pivotal and significant than it is right now.

Working from quarantine

Remote working is a somewhat novel concept for many people, and therefore both quite confusing and exciting. Although it is important to note that this is nothing like the ‘remote working’ that some of us were used to before we all started having meetings in our pyjamas.

Floods of messages from usually office-bound colleagues, the inability to escape the working environment and having to navigate everybody’s disrupted schedules still represents huge challenges for seasoned remote workers.

People who are therefore more accustomed to remote working need to share their self-management skills so that less experienced colleagues can get to grips with a far more independent and individually responsible way of working while also better understanding the need to adapt your working habits to the situation at hand.

Self-management is about a lot more than just setting a schedule or finding a nice corner of the kitchen table to work from. It’s about setting your own priorities, understanding your needs (food, water, mental health breaks) and finding the right balance between discipline and cutting yourself some slack.

Simply put, true self-management is about putting your most human skills to use to make sure that you stay positive and proactive when working and ensuring you avoid the repetitive daily grind that can be even more damaging when working in isolation.

Time management

Remote working requires the wisdom to decide where your time is best spent, the initiative to manage shifting priorities, the emotional intelligence to stay in contact with colleagues, and the responsibility to take on extra work as some departments lose staff and others need additional support.

These abilities are fundamental to using this time positively to develop new skills and find your own most productive way of working.

As we get used to increased flexibility and more influence over our working lives, this more individual, digitally defined way of working could be widely adopted as the new normal.

Digital transformation has been a buzz phrase flung about within many companies in recent years, but there has been no real incentive to actually make the transition to a more flexible way of working.

As efficiencies are being sought everywhere, and everyone takes a crash course in managing their own workload, managers and employees alike may well realise that allowing people to organise themselves and take advantage of powerful digital productivity tools actually equates to a much more efficient and satisfying way of working for everyone.

Favourable fallout

When our lives do start going back to ‘normal’ and we examine the impact this virus has had on the working world, we will find that many processes have been automated and that our real value as humans lies in those tasks that cannot be handled by robots.

This era of unprecedented and intensive remote work could change the way we work forever and not in a bad way. This time will allow companies to take stock of their working processes, remove all superfluous and unnecessary bureaucracy, make savings and improve efficiencies where possible, while also establishing a truly digitised, more independent and more responsible workforce.

Charles Towers-Clark is global chairman of Pod Group