I think we can all agree that the last year was one like no other. As we look forward to the end of the most stringent restrictions that the pandemic brought, how will our work world be affected by the year of home working? And will new trends develop that will permanently change the modern work landscape? Over two blogs, we will dig a bit deeper into the lasting effect of Covid 19 and the issues that leaders need to address.
Why weren’t we more flexible?
The move to more flexible working has been topical for a few years. Some forward-thinking organisations had already embraced the approach, but for the vast majority of organisations, being based in an office was the norm.
Three key barriers to more widespread flexible working were common. Firstly, access to the technology to allow it to be effective. Secondly, a trust issue, with some managers uncomfortable about the lack of direct management control and finally, a concern about effectiveness. Even where organisations trusted their employees to do their jobs, there was a feeling that it just wouldn’t be as effective as working face to face with others.
A huge disruption
With an almost overnight shift to home working for vast swathes of the UK workforce in March of 2020, companies had to turn their traditional way of thinking on its head. This was disruption on a scale probably not encountered since the second World War.
And it’s not ended either. Now that employees have proved that location and productivity are not intrinsically linked, the buzz term we are hearing is ‘hybrid’, and this approach continues to disrupt engrained workplace culture, changing it, we believe, forever. Hybrid working is about blending the best of both worlds and giving employees more choice about where they work. It sounds great, but for it to work properly, there are some important considerations to address. The pandemic may have started this particular revolution, but hybrid working will define our future workplaces, and it’s down to our leaders to make it work. A survey by The Work Trend Index* reveals some interesting findings, and the statistics below are taken from it.
Consideration 1 – flexible working is not going away
Now that so many of us have experienced the benefits, according to the survey, 70% of workers want flexible arrangements to remain, and 65% want the option for face to face time with their teams. As a result, two-thirds of corporate decision-makers are looking at how they can redesign physical workspaces to accommodate hybrid working practices that will meet both objectives. The pandemic has caused employees to re-evaluate their expectations, and there is a demand for the flexibility to choose when, where, and how they work.
Consideration 2 – leaders need to be in touch with their employees
The survey shows that of the business leaders questioned, over 60% felt they were thriving at the moment. By contrast, that feeling within workers without any decision-making authority, more likely to be younger workers, women and frontline workers, is just 37%. There’s a clear disconnect. Part of this could be that leaders are missing the opportunity for ad hoc catch-ups with their teams to ask how they are and losing the ability to quickly pick up on issues. For hybrid working to be successful, leaders need to find new ways to tap into the wellbeing of their employees.
Consideration 3 – workers are exhausted
20% of the survey respondents feel their employer does not care about their work/life balance. Over half feel they are overworked, and nearly 40% feel exhausted.
One of the issues is that the pandemic has resulted in a massive increase in the digital intensity of people’s lives. Figures from Microsoft suggest that over the last year, time on Microsoft Teams has more than doubled, and average online meeting time has risen from 35 to 45 minutes. The average user of Teams sends 45% more chats every week, and there’s been an increase of 66% of people working on documents on Teams.
The problem is, we are bombarded with communications, and they are often unstructured or unplanned. Workers are feeling under pressure to keep on top of things, and on the whole, are doing so, as response times have changed little despite the increase in communications. Whilst we might have lost the daily commute, there’s a reported 42% increase in chats sent after standard office hours. Leaders need to acknowledge this issue and find ways to manage the digital overload that so many are experiencing.
Do any of these issues resonate with you? Do share your views with us – and look out for part two of this blog that highlights more considerations that need addressing for our brave new hybrid world to succeed.
* The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries