In our last blog, we looked at how the pandemic has brought about seismic change to working practices and paved the way for the growth of a hybrid way of working.
We talked about how home working has worked for many, delivering more family time, increased flexibility in working hours and the demise of the daily commute. But we also considered how leaders are losing touch with their employees and raised the real issue for many of digital exhaustion.
In this blog, we look at further consideration for leaders if the hybrid model of working is to be successful. Statistics are again taken from the 2021 Work Trend Index*.
Consideration 4 – Gen Z employees need your care
Younger people have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. A majority of Gen Zers – the 18 to 25-year-olds – are struggling or only just surviving. Often in their first jobs, they are missing out on the casual conversations, the small talk, the office jokes that help teams to feel connected. To start your career in an environment that is totally remote is very hard. This generation is also more likely to be single and so feeling the impact of isolation at home as well.
The contribution of new generations is vital for organisations to thrive, but they have been plunged into a situation that makes it hard for them to input their ideas. Making sure these young workers are helped to develop their sense of purpose and that their mental health issues are addressed is going to be important as we move forward.
Consideration 5 – Our networks have shrunk
Microsoft has analysed aggregated data on collaboration trends in 122 billion Outlook emails and 2.3 billion Team meetings. Their findings were clear in that the shift to remote working has caused our networks to shrink. We interacted with our closest colleagues more but with our wider networks far less.
It makes sense that in unusual times we gravitate towards those we know, but when you lose connections, it’s harder for new ideas to be introduced, with a knock-on effect to a slowing of innovation.
The good news is that it appears as lockdowns lift, we start to widen our networks again. As organisations strive to find that balance of face-to-face and remote teams, it will be worth remembering that the result of purely remote working can be siloed, insular teams. Leaders must strive to encourage cross-team collaboration, and with it, the idea sharing that drives new thinking.
Consideration 6 – the world is your oyster
One of the real positives to remote working is that organisations can search the globe for the brightest talent to fill their vacancies, and candidates are no longer bound by commuting distances. An analysis of jobs posted on LinkedIn showed a five-fold increase during the pandemic in remotely based positions. This is for the good of everyone, helping to create equal access to roles regardless of where you choose to live. Remote working also seems to be more attractive to diverse sectors of society. Switched on leaders will see that a change in working practices can be a strategy for attracting the best and most diverse talent.
One final point we would raise is that as everyone found their own ways to balance work responsibilities and homeschooling, shushing away the dog from their Zoom calls and sighing at the delivery arriving during the morning catch up, something happened. Work became more tolerant of us as humans. We discovered that there is no ‘work life’ and ‘home life’ – there is simply ‘life’. If a colleague joined a meeting with a cat on their lap, we loved it. A small child wandered in during a client meeting; it really wasn’t a problem. Interactions may have been taken online, but they also became more authentic. We all shared a level of vulnerability almost unthinkable pre-2020. This is one aspect of the pandemic that we hope is here to stay.
In conclusion, the mammoth changes of last year have caused employees to re-evaluate what is important. The way organisations tackle the changes needed to the way they work, taking the positives and addressing the challenges, will have an effect on which employees stay, which move on and the candidates you will attract in future.
* The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries