What do I need to keep in mind as we struggle to re-open, revamp for hybrid work and the technology available while also complying with COVID guidelines while keeping employees engaged?
The world is certainly more complex than anything we’ve experienced in the past. AND, the rules, the guidelines, and laws keep changing as science provides us with new data, challenging us to pivot in ways and under circumstances where’s there no rule book.
There is no quick answer to this one…and there’s no ‘rule book’ to follow.
Yet, there are models of what others are doing that can give us some insight on how to proceed. And, there are past examples of how we’ve done things to guide and shape us on how we do things in the present (is it right?) and for the future (what are some better options?). It’s about shifting ‘mindset’ – the old way of doing work is simply a thing of the past…we will never go back to life as we knew it pre-pandemic. Think about your own life and the changes you’ve made.
#1 First rule of thumb - be proactive not reactive! Here’s an opportunity to re-imagine and re-think the life of your organization, your people, and the roles and responsibilities therein.
#2 Second rule of thumb – as the EEOC just demonstrated in its first Pandemic-related remote-work bias suit (September 2021), the pandemic not only forced us into new ways of doing business but also demonstrated that we can do it! We DO really have to ‘re-think’ our policies and practices for where, how and when employees work. And, when technology to work from home is really good, employees are actually MORE productive. Now, isn’t that a ‘both-gain’ outcome?
#3 A third - it’s time to ‘rethink’ diversity – not just about inclusion of race, gender, and many more – but also to think about work locations, work possibilities to generate loyalty and productivity and to create new opportunities for effective inclusion of people whether they are on-site, remote or hybrid (both) and wherever they are.
Social connection is still a huge part of humanity and why so many of us show up for work – to be connected, to feel valued, to be heard, to be cared for, to be supported, to be respected, and to be honored. It’s really time to meet people where they need to be met and not just about meeting the needs of the organization. This is what we call ‘employee engagement’ and how to drive commitment and productivity moving forward! Life re-imagined.
#4 And, a fourth, it’s invaluable to have a dedicated team. Let’s draw upon the findings of others more learned and with far bigger resources than many of us – Microsoft, Linked In and UBER. Here are some results to take note of:
Microsoft (September 2021) found in their journey to re-imagine the work life ahead found the following:
- 73% of employees want flexible remote work options
- 67% want more in-person work and collaboration opportunities (my note: again, we need the social connection and sense of inclusion)
- 80% of managers EXPECT to see increased flexibility in work practices and policies
- And, FlexJobs found that 58% of remote employees would leave their jobs if unable to continue working remotely (at least some of the time).
Now, what kind of statement does that make? Re-imagine life moving forward…how do we create a new world of work, never before seen? We are on the cutting edge of a new life in the world of work in terms of where we work, how we work, and how we engage – all with the potential of providing psychological and physical safety within our ever-changing COVID-related world of today.
People with health conditions, underlying COVID conditions as well as work-related injuries and other evolving health conditions as our workforce (at any age) continues to age, will forever be part of our workplace climate. Health issues, including behavioral mental health, are forever a part of the human existence.
It’s also time to de-stigmatize concerns about ‘mental health’ – we all have issues for whatever the reason. Many times it’s situational…many times they evolve as a result of trauma(s) experienced…whatever, the circumstances around COVID, the social unrest of past years, not to mention the political and financial climate of the last couple of years have increased anxiety, depression, fear, and a lack of trust – the latter mostly around what employers are willing to do (or not) for their employees.
So, “UP” your game around access to your EAP programs – one of the most valuable but underutilized employee benefits available. Why? No one wants to admit that they are facing challenges…struggling…having difficulty maintaining in a world of chaos. Yet, we all have them. It’s a reality of life.
#5 And, last – a fifth – for your consideration. The May 2020 shooting of George Floyd certainly ignited the world in the wake of the Pandemic onset earlier in 2020 and served as a huge wake-up call to business leaders. It’s time to ‘rethink’ how the organization is structured and where/how we do business given the ‘safety’ aspect of employees’ health (at any level) while engaging in the ongoing delivery of business.
Based on a September 2021 LinkedIn study, do you have these on staff?
- Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer (grown from 84% in 2020 to 111% in 2021)
- Chief People Officer (up in hiring to 61%) – those in human resources have a much greater presence in today’s (and tomorrow’s) organizational structure and with stronger voice!
- Chief Legal Officer, Chief Accounting Officer and Chief Talent Officers are up 53%, 43% and 36% respectively.
It’s time to re-think those in charge so they have the ‘mindset’ to drive the future of the hybrid work world while COVID lingers on – it’s a changed world out there, are you ready for the change? A more engaged workforce leads to a more profitable organization.
It’s about flexibility, resiliency and emotional intelligence in how we approach the new world of work!
“Technology Brings in ‘Forgotten’ Remote Workers” by Dave Zielinski, SHRM HR Daily Newsletter, August 30, 2021
“Rethinking ‘Back to Work’ – 12 Questions about Hybrid Work Answered,” Tsedal Neeley,Harvard Business Review, September 28, 2021
Hybrid Work: A Guide for Business Leaders” Work Trend Index by Microsoft, 30,000 employees in 31 countries, September 2021