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ATD Blog

Work-From-Anywhere Challenges and Opportunities

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

As we shift to more virtual work, many organizations are struggling to recreate an in-person work culture. The ways we once connected are no longer easily applied to the work-from-anywhere (WFA) model. Instead, organizations are forced to evolve and adapt. What does a productive corporate WFA culture look like?

It looks like a culture that trusts employees to do their work and provides them the time they need to do it, in the manner and place they choose. According to UNC Professor Dr. Arvind Malhotra, it also requires managers to intentionally bring people together.


A recent Gartner survey found that, among employees whose remote work time increased since January 2020, 36 percent reported increased productivity. At first, productivity dropped during the pandemic. However, that increased as employees established new ways of working and found systems that worked for them. Many organizations trusted their staff; others micromanaged, resulting in lower morale and attrition. But when a culture of trust is developed, the situation changes. Here are some practical ideas to support creating a culture of trust.


In the US alone, disengagement costs up to $550 billion annually. Organizations can help boost engagement in the WFA environment:

  • Create a virtual watercooler where employees can discuss their projects, ask for help, and share stories.
  • Schedule employee-engagement days to bring people together.
  • Involve executives in sharing knowledge and skills.
  • Provide mentoring and one-on-one training, which forges trust and engagement.

Redefine Meetings

Leaders should only hold meetings to achieve certain objectives:

  • Strengthen team connections.
  • Announce wins.
  • Share what employees are working on.
  • Share important business or team updates.
  • Discuss challenging topics.

When scheduling a meeting, consider these particulars:

  • Who needs to be there and why?
  • How long does the meeting need to be to accomplish the goal?
  • Some of the most effective meetings are between just two people.

Enable Asynchronous Work

Before, many leaders thought that employees needed to work on projects at the same time, in the same place. Now, using technology, individuals can effectively collaborate at different times and places.

Avoid Silos

How social should the office be? It should be social enough to avoid disconnection. A trusted and empowered workforce needs regular check-ins, both with management and with the full team to foster real connections. To help spark this collaboration, leaders should offer virtual hangouts and provide multiple levels of mentorship.

Provide Flexibility

If organizational objectives are met or exceeded, does it matter how, when, and where the work is done? Consider these tools to provide flexibility while also accomplishing your mission:

  • Allow more diverse people into the workforce through job sharing.
  • Promote smaller, project-based flexibility.
  • Provide flexible working hours.

Support Work-Life Balance

Organizations that support their employees’ personal needs help them use energy saved from “life” to create a spark at work. Improving engagement for remote staff requires management to listen to them as individuals, by being aware and listening for cues from their team.

Foster Trust

Assume your colleagues have a positive intent, and most will live up to that assumption. When organizations measure outcomes instead of work styles, they find their goals are met and their employees often excel.

Provide Focus Time

Staff need uninterrupted time to focus on their work. What can you do to encourage this?

  • Schedule fewer meetings.
  • Post do-not-disturb signs on offices and block calendars.
  • Let staff choose their own work times and places.


COVID-19 hurt organizational cultures, but leaders can now rethink and build a new culture around trust. Trust relies on strong connections between employees and alignment from senior leadership. The new role of a leader is to create and maintain these connections.

About the Author

Kirk Lawrence is program director for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He spent 30 years as a career Army officer, retiring as a Colonel in 2011. He spent a year in the corporate world before joining the team at UNC Executive Development. At UNC, he builds custom educational courses for federal clients, and every one of these tailored instructional programs has some element of change management training involved. It’s a tremendously important subject, and one in which every high-ranking federal official should be well versed. The last job he held in the military was the Chief of the Army’s Congressional Budget Liaison office, where he was responsible for developing the strategy to deal with the appropriations committees for defense, and to work with the Secretary and the Chief of Staff, Army on those issues with Congress.  

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Good article. This article provides some additional useful background:
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