by Adam O’Neill MBA, SPHR – Sr. Human Resources Consultant
It appears employers and employees are learning together how the post-pandemic workplace has changed and continues to evolve. Fear of the unknown drove the country and the business world into a temporary paralysis until American grit and determination brought about innovative solutions to keep the lights on. None of it was easy, but we have learned a great deal from the adversity we’ve faced together. While no two companies are the same, let’s look at two key stakeholder examples.
Working from home became the only option for many, including you. And wasn’t the lack of commute, wearing slippers while you work, and dropping off and picking your kids up from school great? Well, it was for a while, perhaps. But maybe you started feeling isolated and missed face-to-face interaction. Zoom was a big help, but was it truly enough to fill the culture void created by distance – both time and space – from our colleagues? Loved ones may have complained that you’re always connected to work, checking messages, taking calls, shushing them because you had an incoming call. Your productivity might have been up, but how sustainable was this arrangement? Now your kitchen table was your desk; and you were always at home and always at work. Your work-life balance was all out of whack, and you wondered why everyone around you was getting so agitated. Heck, even your cat was getting sick of you.
You gracefully accepted the restrictions, acknowledging that you were doing your part to protect the physical and economic well-being of your employees. Business levels dropped, so the workforce had to be trimmed. The layoffs and furloughs were gut-wrenchingly difficult on a personal level. For those employees you retained, working remotely became the only option. But your business, like most, had never authorized anyone to work from home before. This required a different approach to employee management where strategies like tracking employee computer activity, establishing reliable communication methods, and measuring and analyzing performance metrics became absolutely necessary. Remaining cautiously optimistic, you implemented the plan effectively, and it turned out that your employees were quite adept at being productive at home. Great news! But, over time, your remote employees became less engaged, less cohesive, and you became concerned that the company was losing its culture and identity. Could it be that your employees missed the office so much that they yearned to return 5-days a week? Well, statistics indicate the answer is emphatically no.
According to a recent GoodHire survey of employees working from home since the start of the pandemic, 74% of respondents would need some sort of remote working arrangement to stay at their current job. A growing number of companies are endeavoring to meet this challenge with hybrid work environments which allow a combination of in-office and remote work schedules. The goal is to create a fully staffed and sustainable workforce empowered to outperform the competition. The difficulty is to find the right balance of in-office and remote work that suits the requirements of the specific business model, and they’re all different.
Next time, we’ll dive deeper into hybrid work environments as we discuss practical ideas for businesses to consider in developing their post-pandemic workforce.
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