Siri Maldonado, Director, People Engagement, explores how the pandemic has turned the traditional 9-to-5 upside down, forcing businesses to think about what the New World of Work means to them and what they need to do to make it a success.
It’s been almost two years since the pandemic first revealed itself; turning the world and businesses on their heads and shifting the way we work forever. With vaccination rates on the rise and COVID-19 moving to the rear-view (fingers-crossed!), organizations are beginning to explore and plan for the new world of work.
But what is the new world of work? And what do businesses have to do to prepare?
Let’s start with what’s changed.
1. Remote work became the norm.
Before covid-19, remote work was typically offered as a perk. That quickly changed and many businesses were forced to change their work environments overnight. Not only did organizations have to pivot to a remote work environment, but they also had to figure out how to support employees who were working double while home-schooling, or taking care of dependents.
The pressures didn’t stop there; immense feelings of job insecurity, financial concerns, isolation and more, impacted employee engagement and highlighted the need for different leadership attributes to support people through this change.
2. The pandemic will have lasting impacts on employee engagement.
There are two sides to this story. On the one hand, remote work has empowered employees by providing them with autonomy to decide how and when to do their work. It has also enabled them to think about why they are working, and the value it has to them.
On the other hand, the pandemic also resulted in employee burnout as the lines between their professional and personal lives became blurred.
To address this, some of the things organizations needed to do were ramp up employee recognition, be creative in their virtual engagement activities, provide coaching, time-management tips and best practices (e.g. blocking off 30% of your calendar) encouraging the use of post script signatures that set expectations or explained unusual response times, and ensure they were creating a fulfilling work environment.
Approaches to maintaining employee engagement will continue to evolve, but one thing is for sure, the way people work, and the increasing need to find value in their work will never be the same.
3. Leadership is human.
It’s becoming more uncommon, but traditionally leaders have been appointed predominantly based on their experience and expertise. While those continue to be important today, we are seeing an emergence of an emotional and human-centered approach to leadership.
In my career, I’ve had many great leaders, and one of the most common threads they’ve shared is the emotional support they’ve provided. Like many, I often found my personal lives intertwined with my professional life. Most recently, this has been the experience for many as people were forced to work and live at home full-time because of the pandemic.
This highlighted the need for leaders to focus on supporting their people by finding different, and meaningful ways to connect, demonstrating trust and respect, and showing compassion for their employee’s well-being.
These attributes are more important than ever, and organizations must take initiative to embed these qualities within their culture and leadership group to succeed in the New World of Work. With all this in mind, businesses have been busily planning what the New World of Work looks like as they start to welcome their employees back into a physical space full-time or part-time.
The New World of Work doesn’t look the same for all.
Despite the pandemic illustrating how successful employees can be working remotely, there are businesses that have made a strong stance on having their employees return to the office full-time.
Let’s look at Morgan Stanley, where recent headlines like “If you want NYC salary, you need to be in NYC” have been highlighted. Morgan Stanley’s chief executive has been clear that he expects all New York City employees to be back at their desks in the office by Labour Day or they will face salary cuts. This is a stark contrast to what we are seeing from other companies like Twitter, which have moved to a permanent remote work environment for at least two years as they experienced a lift in productivity during the pandemic.
Then there’s Salesforce which has fallen in the middle of the two, with their Work from Anywhere model that offers employees three options for how they’ll work going forward: flex, fully remote, or office-based.
There are pros and cons to all the options above; being in the office provides development opportunities and pay grades are traditionally based on location, so I can understand why many organizations including Morgan Stanley, have been adamant about making pay cuts if their employees are not in the office.
However, working remotely allows organizations to find talent, regardless of socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural backgrounds as they are not tied to a specific location. It also allows them to save on real estate costs and other operational expenses and has positive environmental impacts with less commuting and the increased use of technology.
Whatever choice businesses make, it is crucial they involve their employees in their decision. As we always say, change starts with the people. The good news is there is an abundance of resources available for businesses to use as they transition to the New World of Work.
Where to start
1. Survey, survey, survey! Surveys are a great way to collect insights to use during the planning process. It’s also important to note that surveys are not once and done. You should start with a baseline survey, and continue to measure against those results as you progress with your planning.
Surveys should also be complemented by other activities, like leader cascades, town halls, and other communications activities.
2. Continue developing a culture that is change resilient, flexible, and adaptable. This is important as we know change never ends and giving the tools and support for employees to embrace the changes are key. The strongest cultures inspire, enable and connect their people. I invite you to read @Krista Schaber-Chan‘s blog ‘Are your people Change Enabled’ to learn more about Change Enablement.
3. Update your team charter. At Harbinger, we love a team charter. It’s a great tool for leaders to use to start crucial discussions on how they will work with each other in the New World of Work. Team charters should be regularly updated and discussed as teams will continuously learn what works and what doesn’t.
4. Stay on top of and share tips about how to work in the New World of Work with leaders and employees. There is a flurry of resources available, including these work-from-home tips for leaders and employees from Harbinger.