Remote working – is it a help or a hindrance?

More and more companies have turned to remote working in order to save money and to gain access to a larger pool of resources.  Interestingly, I was speaking to a manager this week who noted that remote working includes anyone in your team who is not sat in the same vicinity – they could be in another country, another town, half a mile down the road working from home, in the same building but on a different floor, or even on a different part of the same floor.

The challenge of communicating effectively is still the same.  They admitted that, even when people are in the same building, if they have to get out of their chair to speak to them the chances are they would send an email instead.  Not even pick up the phone, they would send an email – how worrying is that!  This is a sign to me that leaders have less time to spend with their teams.  Email is not the answer to that problem!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of remote working – I have done it for 30 years – although I have always been able to choose where I work rather than being remote all the time.  Whether you enjoy it or not is highly influenced by your own motivators (I need a balance of independence and teaming), but it is equally influenced by how you are managed, and the team culture that your leader encourages.

So let’s look at why you may have switched to remote working and what the issues could be.  Then we can focus on what you, as a manager, need to do to continue to inspire your remote workers.


From personal experience, I know I can easily double my productivity when working at home.  However, that is because I have put in place the disciplines needed to enable me to be more productive – I have a separate office, with a door I can close, reducing interruptions; I have the technology I need to enable me to connect to the outside world; I take regular breaks to ensure I don’t over-work or get fatigued; I keep hydrated and fed so that my energy levels and concentration can be extended; I am accessible to others and let them know what I have achieved.  I’m sure you will have your own tips on this, but even these are not always easy to attain, so many people can be less productive at home, if their disciplines are poor.

Action: Schedule regular contact with your remote teams, either by video or telephone or by meeting up at a convenient location.  If they are not being productive, understand why not and what needs to change.


No commute, no queuing for a coffee or the printer, it is easy to see why remote working can be less stressful than being in the office.  It can also provide a better work-life balance, because some of that commute time can be put to better use, whether it be to do the school run, keep fit or to socialise more.  However, if your team interacts less with their colleagues they can soon become isolated.  Perhaps goals and expectations won’t be clear, maybe you won’t know who’s doing what or if achievements are appreciated.  All these can lead to higher stress levels.

Action: Make goals, targets and expectations clear to your team, as well as ensuring good performance is recognised and rewarded.


If you have thousands of in-office employees then they all need a desk, computer, phone, maybe even an office.  You’ll need a canteen, kitchens, toilets, some companies even provide a gym and a swimming pool in to increase staff morale.  So it’s easy to see how having remote working teams can reduce these costs.  However, a word of warning.  It is essential that your teams meet face to face on a regular basis and the company will need to provide a good base to do this. I don’t mean “a hot-desking area” where you get to sit with anyone from anywhere in the company, I mean areas where employees can sit or meet together with their team-mates.  This takes some co-ordination from you as a manager.  It is also essential for you to be clear that you expect your team to participate in these meetings.  In between these face to face communications, your teams will need to collaborate during their work, so you’ll need up-to-date systems for document sharing, video and teleconferencing, which don’t come cheap.

Action: Although you may be able to save money by switching to more remote working, in order to make it work you will need to invest in other areas, such as communications technology and shared meeting spaces.


If there is one thing that builds the best employee engagement, I would say “trust”.  Allowing your teams to choose to work remotely at times shows a huge amount of trust. Finding ways to include them, listen to them, thank them and praise them can help to motivate them and maintain high performance.  Everyone needs different levels of interaction and independence, so it is key to be able to understand what makes them tick.  Of course if you are a task-focused leader who struggles to do these things when people are on site, you are going to find it harder when they are working remotely.  Consequently you are less likely to encourage remote working at all.

Action: Ensure that you understand your team’s motivators so you can engage with each individual in the best possible way.  Focus on what they deliver rather than how long they spend at their laptop.


So you can see that there can be pros and cons to remote working. If managed effectively, I think the pros far outweigh the cons.  If you have a remote working team and are finding effectiveness and engagement an issue, please get in touch.

September 3, 2019 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

Women leaders – why aren’t there more?

I have worked with plenty of women leaders who I felt had the potential to get to the top.  However some of them have ‘opted out’ of following their ambitions.  So, with such a focus on it, why do we still not see more women in senior leadership roles?

Obviously I am a man giving my perception of how the women leaders I have met feel about things – so forgive me if this doesn’t cover every angle!  As with all complex issues, it is a combination of things.  On the one hand it seems that there are some internal beliefs holding women back.  On the other, men are, often unknowingly, re-inforcing those beliefs, so we rarely get out of the cycle.

Confidence issues

Issues with confidence can stem from several areas, perfectionism and imposter syndrome to name just two.  They can get in the way of success, and if left to grow or helped to grow by un-supportive leaders and mentors, they can be enough to limit a career on their own.

It takes empathy and patience to understand each individual’s confidence issues, but with the right balance of positive and constructive feedback they can be overcome.  It is about building the right environment, providing safety and respect, where it is acceptable to feel that way at times, while providing a mix of support and challenge that people need to push themselves to the next level.

Fear of failure

Being afraid of failing is part of human nature, however it can become so encompassing that it prevents us acting or moving forward at all.  This often comes from perfectionist traits where people want to get things right first time and want everything to be right.

Again, there needs to be the environment where it is alright to fail.  I haven’t met any senior leaders who gained all their learning from their successes, in fact quite the opposite.  If executives and mentors communicate regularly with their women leaders, they can help to find the appropriate level of risk they can take when looking for success, as well as helping them to learn from their mistakes in a positive way.

Fear of losing their work/life balance

Even in the 21st century women are often assuming more of the domestic burden than men and are certainly very aware of the need for a good balance between work and home life.  Unfortunately, with leadership roles comes more responsibility and women often put pressure on themselves to work longer hours. This perception can be another obstacle to women looking to progress.

However, with a little lateral thinking and flexibility from employers it is often much easier to balance a busy home and work life than you would think.  They key is that everyone needs to work smarter rather than longer, and be allowed to switch off outside of work, especially when on holiday.

Lack of role models

Unfortunately, until we make leadership more accessible for women this will continue to be an issue.  Men do not always make great role models for women, as their leadership behaviours are not necessarily ones that women want to emulate.

Women need to see other women in leadership roles to know that it is possible, and they need to know that they can bring their natural leadership style to a business rather than having to pretend to be an alpha male.  They need to see many different roles available to them and many different personalities inhabiting those roles.


I would like to see wider mentoring of women leaders, where organisations share their experiences and provide the support that can help to change the current dynamics.





March 19, 2019 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

Motivating in a pay freeze

Over the past ten years thousands of organisations in both the public and private sectors have imposed pay freezes on their staff. The aim is to improve bottom line results by capping fixed costs. The negative side of a pay freeze is that employee motivation can take a nose dive and the organisation can end up losing valuable employees, so the question is….how can you motivate your team in a pay freeze?

The first thing to do is find out the reason for the pay freeze and the length of time you can expect it to be in force. Take the time to explain the purpose and time frame to your team, so they can understand the pressure the business is facing as well as how long they may need to wait without an increase in their remuneration.

Next look for potential flight risks. These could be the people who are most motivated by money, and/or those who genuinely believe their financial rewards are not ‘fair’ for their role. Discuss with your superiors the possibility of a pay adjustment for these people and remember to point out how much more it will cost in terms of recruitment and possible loss of income if they are high performers within the business. Pay freeze does not always mean a complete freeze.

Another option is to look at alternative ways of compensating your workers, such as greater flexibility in working hours, home working or additional holiday time. For many people these could work just as effectively as financial rewards.

Finally remember that not everyone is motivated by money. For many of your employees other factors will be more important to them, such as job stability, working as part of a strong team or creative problem solving. As long as their salary meets their basic living needs they will stay if their other motivators are satisfied.

The key here is to make sure you understand what motivates each member of your team, and to manage their motivation pro-actively so you can ensure their needs are being met. Small changes really can make a big difference, so make sure you explore all avenues rather than assuming there is nothing you can do.

August 20, 2018 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Motivating Millenials…

A Millennial is generally defined as a person who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century, so born in the 90s. Now we are approaching the end of the second decade of this century, Millennials are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, with numbers as high as 1 in 3. Therefore, knowing how to engage with and motivate Millennials is more important than ever.

In general I don’t like to generalise!  Each person in your team is an individual and should be managed as such, however some common attributes can be identified which make Millennials easier to motivate.

Millennials are easily distracted

Brought up with technology and social media in their everyday lives Millennials are easily distracted by social media and digital communication such as texting and Whatsapp.

Solution: Encourage them to establish daily and weekly goals to maintain focus.  Be clear about what you expect from them, including deadlines.

Millennials thrive on recognition

Nurtured and pampered by their Baby Boomer parents, who didn’t want to make the same mistakes as the previous generation, Millennials are used to instant recognition and praise

Solution: Give regular praise to maintain drive.  Create a culture where balanced feedback is the norm, so that Millennials get used to constructive criticism as well.

Millennials find good works rewarding

A wealthier upbringing than their parents may have experienced mean Millennials are less motivated by the acquisition of money and need to feel that they are making a difference in and out of work.

Solution: Ensure that their job has a clear purpose and that they know what success looks like – they won’t stay just for the pay.

Millennials value flexibility

Aware from a young age of the need for a good work life balance, Millennials are looking for a more flexible working environment.

Solution: Be clear about your flexible working policy, ensuring that managers are trained to deal with remote workers effectively.  This is about creating a culture of trust, which Millennials will also value.

Millennials are tech savvy

Millennials grew up with technology and rely on it in their everyday lives.

Solution: Make sure your technology is up-to-date and fit for purpose.  Leverage it to reduce travel, provide flexible learning opportunities as well as using a breadth of communications media.

Millennials are team orientated

Encouraged to play team games and take part in group activities during their childhood, Millennials value teamwork

Solution: Team building exercises can really work well if they are correctly planned and implemented

Once again, I would emphasise that, in addition to these general principles, each person on your team, Millennial or not, should be treated as an individual when you are considering how to get the best from them.

If you need help motivating your Millennial team, we would love to hear from you.




March 13, 2018 at 9:51 am Leave a comment

Are you dreading a company re-organisation?

Re-organisation within a company can often be associated with confusion, pointless reshuffling and ultimately employees may think it is just code for redundancies. However a re-organisation, if managed correctly and carried out for the right reasons, can result in a re-energised workforce and new focus.

Here are my top reasons to consider a re-organisation in your company

To re-invigorate top performers

Just because members of your team are doing well doesn’t mean you can forget about them. Even top performers need regular evaluation and adjustment to prevent stagnation. A new challenge that caters to their strengths can bring fresh perspective and even better results. Similarly a long-term top performer may become disengaged and a change can prevent monotony setting in.

To align the right people to the right problems

Business is always changing and evolving. As a leader you need to be aware of this and be ready to adapt. Knowing the challenges facing your business and the strengths and weaknesses of your teams means you will be able to quickly adjust, moving the right people or teams to address the problems best suited to them.

To stay competitive

The company that doesn’t change and grow will ultimately be overtaken by the competition. As a leader you have to be ready to re-organise in order to compete. I’m sure most of us will remember the video-rental chain ‘Blockbuster’.  They adapted from VHS to DVD just fine – it didn’t require much re-organisation, just change the product you sell. However when it came to the digital download age they weren’t ready or willing to change and ultimately failed.

To focus on a new strategic direction

Interestingly the ‘Blockbuster’ analogy can also apply to this situation. If Blockbuster had focused on the new direction of their industry they could still be with us today, but new strategic directions are not just an opportunity to stay competitive, but also an opportunity to grow your business in new areas. Sometimes this may involve recruitment, but you can often find the assets you need are already part of your workforce and a re-organisation is all that is required to leverage this new strategy.

As always my top advice to get the best from your re-organisation is COMMUNICATION. When that email goes out announcing the re-org, ALL your employees should already know about it, be familiar with the reasoning and comfortable with the process and its implications for them and their team.

It is vital to take a broad view of the talent across your organisation, so you can empower them to succeed where you need them most and where they will enjoy the new challenge.

December 11, 2017 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

Are staff rewards the key to retaining people?

A staff rewards program isn’t going to magically solve any issues your teams may have. Rewards (like pay rises, bonuses and treats) are a short term solution and quickly forgotten if your staff are not happy in their job. No matter how many free lunches you give them, if your team is not motivated and engaged you will not get the results you want and ultimately you may find your best people are moving on to pastures new.

So what is the answer? Well, as always, it’s complicated – you need to look at rewards from a much broader perspective.

Firstly, do you know what makes everyone in your team tick? If you do, then you can shape a ‘rewards program’ for each individual, that is tailored to their top motivators.

For example, the Star profile is motivated by recognition, they could be encouraged by a reward, but only if everyone knew about it! However the Friend profile is more motivated by working in collaboration with a group. Financial or other rewards will have very little effect on this type of person, but working with a good team with shared values and goals is likely to keep them happy.

When you extrapolate the above examples across 9 motivators, many of which have potential to interact with each other, it is easy to see how building a tailored reward program for each team member can be quite a daunting task. But with the right assessment in place, simple and straight forward action plans can be put in place to address these complexities.

Of course, some people ARE motivated by financial rewards (the Builder profile particularly), so it is worth considering a staff rewards program. In recent years these have developed with technology so that now you can subscribe and run your entire program via an online portal. They do offer some useful benefits :-

1. You can often select the type of benefits your team receives
This is great because any reward really does need to be tailored to the individual, some people might like a free gym membership and others would prefer donuts!

2. The automated systems ensure rewards are delivered in a timely fashion
One of the most difficult aspects of a staff reward program is ensuring that milestones are checked and rewards delivered, so that staff don’t feel like they are being forgotten, so the automated programs are great for making sure rewards are given on time

My clients commission me to carry out Team Motivation Reviews for a wide variety of reasons. Some clients want to improve sales or results, others want to know which team members they should be developing or ensure they retain their best team members. Whatever the reason for the initial enquiry, rewarding staff is often a question that comes up at some point. If you ignore the issue, or rely on financially based rewards systems, then you may find your team shrinking quickly!

September 8, 2017 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

How to deal with an ‘Oscars’ style mistake

Whether in our private or professional life, we’ve all made mistakes, but some are worse than others. Back in February of this year the Oscar’s featured a particularly embarrassing mistake where Warren Beaty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong winner for the Best Film award. If you haven’t seen the footage, click here to see some excruciatingly embarrassing scenes, where the wrong winners actually come up on stage and start their speeches, before the mistake is revealed.

The mistake turned out to be the fault of Price Waterhouse Coopers, the firm of accountants who are responsible for counting the votes and making up the winners envelopes. The blame finally landed with PWC supervisors Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, who oversaw the counting procedures. The two went into hiding after their mistake was revealed and PwC gagged them to prevent any further negative publicity. Finally the two were removed from any future Oscars duties, but both retained their positions at the company and PwC will continue to operate as vote counters for the Oscars.

It is unlikely that most professional mistakes will garner the kind of publicity that PwC received, but they can still be very serious and damaging for your business. If a member of your team makes a big mistake, it can be hard to know what to do. So here’s my advice:

Stay Calm
If one of your team comes to you with a mistake they have made the most important thing is to stay calm. Now is not the time to get angry or panic. It is a good sign that your team feel confident that they can come to you rather than try and cover things up.

Figure out the worst case scenario

Together with your team, figure out what the results of the mistake are likely to be. This will enable you to form a plan to minimise or rectify the issue.

Take action (quickly) to resolve the problem
Immediate action is essential. One of the factors which exacerbated the problem at the Oscars was that although the PwC team must have realised the mistake as soon as it was read out, they let the situation continue. Quick action can often prevent the effects of a mistake, or at the very least minimise them.

Create an action plan to prevent future occurrences

If one of your team made this mistake it is likely that others could too. Put into place an action plan which could prevent future errors. Ensure that the process is rolled out to all team members who could be affected by such a problem.

Consider Disciplinary Action

Depending on the nature of the mistake it may be that you need to take some kind of disciplinary action. However in most circumstances mistakes made at work do not require any formal action and as long as they are dealt with quickly and efficiently you are your team should be able to move on.

It’s important to remember that as team leader your response to mistakes will definite whether it is ok for your team to push boundaries and take risks, or whether they should toe the line, follow the procedure and potentially miss out on new or exciting opportunities. After all working creatively does have risk and can lead to errors, however it can also lead to growth and development.

The important things are to embrace the mistake, take action to fix it and learn as much as you can before moving forward.

May 15, 2017 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

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Alan Adair

Contact Details

Alan Adair

Extra Dimension
Helping you and your teams to be more engaged, motivated and effective.

21 Pelican House
Stone Close
BH15 4GE

Tel 01202 830047



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