#WFH: Who is Supporting You Working Online?

Augmenting autonomy is challenging but it is also necessary. All workplace learning and development requires thought, investment and caring. It is not a once and done thing. Onboarding is only part of the learning and development process. Putting in the effort to train and develop workers helps with turnover, effectiveness and meeting key performance and ultimately business objectives.

Collaboration is a byproduct of individuals coming together to move in a quest for purpose, direction and meaning. It is built on sensible, trustworthy and positive relationships. It is squashed by erratic behaviors, emotional outbursts and egocentric behaviors. Before you can collaborate, you need to be able to think independently. If I am afraid of what you think and dependent on your input for all my decisions, I am not able to collaborate with you, I am dependent on you. To have teams that collaborate, we must support individuals in acting with autonomy. Humility and an awareness of others intuitively supports collaboration. Collaborative skills can be learned through proactive practice but not until an individual can function autonomously.
Often organizations will avoid this area entirely because they feel individuals are too difficult to deal with. They will strive to hire certain kinds of workers and/or only let certain people work virtu-ally. Undoubtedly, certain personality and individual characteristics work better in the virtual environment but everybody needs support. When companies value human beings as being important to their success, they realize that the investment in human capital has big payoffs.

Building relationships is key to encouraging collaboration. A culture that is innovative and aware values differences. Only then can leaders truly sup-port workers, making connections and establishing relationships that are collaborative. Finding com-mon ground between all sorts of things including race, age, ethnicity, religion, different functional units, culture and geographic regions supports collaboration. To have collaboration, leadership must keep the communication channels open. Leaders need to be very highly involved in day to day practices. High involvement management helps to minimize uncertainty. It improves the perception of organizational support. Of course, this doesn’t mean micromanaging, but it does mean knowing, caring and showing respect for the individual, the job they are doing and their accomplishments.

The opinions workers have about the organization are formed by the communication the organization has with the individual. Communication is a strong part of high involvement management. More is not necessarily better. Communication removes ambiguity and defines clear expectations. Allowing workers to have more input supports clear communication by giving the worker a greater voice and therefore a greater stake in the outcome. Communication with virtual workers must go beyond the superficial. Perceived organization support is communicated by valuing adaptability, minimizing un-certainty and being forthcoming with rational rea-sons for change. When organizations carefully plan changes and communicate the reasons and impact of the changes it is possible to reduce uncertainty. Uncertainly can lead to fear. Fear opens the flood gates to a whole host of negative emotions. When the impact of decisions by leaders is clearly communicated and the expectations explained, it is easier to keep the communication doors open.

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