Where to Begin…….

Our blog series “The Recovery” set out our workplace predictions on emerging from the pandemic. Better informed and more experienced, we revisit the workplace with further thoughts on this transition.

Many business owners claim to currently be navigating challenge by challenge, with no strategic compass. The future seems particularly opaque. How do we avoid administering the trees and get back to managing the forest?

COVID confirmed what we always suspected, knowledge workers don’t like commuting, or even being in the office unless they have to. Infection risk other than for large public gatherings, including public transport, is no longer the primary consideration in determining where to work. Hybrid models prevail and the studies say, are no less productive but most employers, they positioned them as a stopgap because:

  • Business life will eventually return to pre-covid norms with everyone in the office.
  • We have a significant real-estate asset that remains underutilized,
  • Our leadership skills are limited to around the conference room table; and
  • A hybrid working model is more complex to manage than alternatives.

A hybrid model is likely to generate better results so why not embrace it:

  • Make it permanent and remove uncertainty in the minds of the workforce. Employees can build long-term plans that will improve retention and engagement.
  • No value stems from better covering an expense. Don’t consider a full return to the office to justify the lease cost – address that as a separate project.
  • Repurpose how you use the office e.g. F2F collaboration and brainstorming. Arrange office attendance schedules around doing these things – coming into the office to attend zoom calls with those working from home makes no sense.
  • Recreate the water cooler effect and it will be achieved. The pre-lockdown work social life may have already gone.
  • Prepare to invest in new leadership skills e.g. coaching and mentoring are important in a hybrid model to maintain mental health, and avoid overworking. “Quiet Quitting” is not a reaction to hybrid working but a symptom of burnout and a commitment to generate a life beyond work.
  • Plan for the new liabilities that accompany a distributed workplace and refresh employment policies to cover these arrangements.

The workforce will continue to shrink. COVID accelerated that by hundreds of thousands of workers who have not returned to the workplace. Inflation and the cost of living may draw some of them back but many too, are unable to return. Attracting,  retaining,  and engaging staff is mission critical.

A permanent commitment to a hybrid work environment will appeal to the majority of new recruits and existing staff and modifying, policies, upgrading leadership skills, and employee well-being programs will help to build engagement and encourage retention.

This new work environment should also include a well-thought-out pay structure. Some skills will have been elevated as a consequence of new processes introduced during the lockdown and in the short run needs to recognize the effects of inflation and competitive pressure. See our next blog for more on this.

Image by tookapic at Pixabay

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