Life has certainly changed from what it was just over a year ago. As a society, we’ve been through stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, supply shortages, health fears, changes in daycare and schooling of our kids, major workplace adjustments, and loss of life from a disease we didn’t even know about a year and a half ago. Though many of these challenges still exist in our lives today, we have started to successfully adapt.
Perhaps one of the most successful adaptations we’ve been able to make is the transfer of many jobs to an online, remote environment. The transition was difficult for employers that weren’t ready or trusting enough to not physically see their employees every day. Likewise, it was challenging for employees who didn’t want to bring work home with them.
Many of these adaptations are likely to stick around into the future. Our work lives are quickly transitioning into a more hybrid model, potentially for the long term — and that can mean a lot of things.
Work-Life Balance is at the Forefront
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust people into a new phase of working from home — one where the kids are around demanding attention and/or needing the internet to complete their homework, or where parents are now serving as employees, daytime caretakers, and teachers all at the same time. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out well for many, which has forced businesses to recognize the need for greater flexibility and work-life balance.
The idea of having greater workplace flexibility isn’t one that started with the pandemic. Rather, it has been around for a while and many employees of all ages are in favor of a hybrid schedule that allows them to be in the office most of the time but work from home when they need to. In positions where it is feasible, many have also vied for employers to allow more non-traditional working hours.
Numerous studies have also found that employers who support these changes may get more out of their employees. Flexible work schedules with fair rules and boundaries can reduce stress and increase workplace happiness which ultimately can lead to greater productivity and innovation at work.
Now that COVID has forced many companies to take the plunge into hybrid workplace models, many are starting to see their fears of employees slacking off or huge financial costs that held them back aren’t actually true.
Managers are Adapting to a New Leadership Style
Many businesses are also looking at the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of resetting team dynamics and giving employees the opportunity to adjust workflows. It has also caused many managers to rethink the way they are reaching out to and communicating with employees. This has given many the chance to make real changes to their management style.
For instance, managers have quickly realized that communication with employees is a different ballgame when they are remote. It is easy to lose connection with team members or lose track of tasks that employees should be collaborating on — not to mention, work is (or, previously, was) a place where many of us socialize and social isolation is a real issue for remote workers.
To adjust, good managers are trying to reach out more, do regular check-ins, provide resources, and facilitate employee connections.
Unfortunately, for many managers, the pandemic has actually made it harder to have a work-life balance. With checking in on the needs of employees, managing day-to-day tasks remotely, working with employees that have adopted non-traditional hours, and simply having access to work documents all the time, it can be hard to put work away.
Of course, this comes with its own strains and burnout risks that managers must be cognizant of and set boundaries for if they will be successful.
Some Things Haven’t Changed
Although a lot has changed and we’ve managed to adapt to a new way of working, there are certainly a number of things that haven’t changed at all. For instance, the benefits of greater diversity in the workplace haven’t gone away, and managers should still work on increasing it. Even remotely, working with people from different backgrounds and perspectives can increase collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
Likewise, employees still crave support and appreciation from their managers and peers. It can be more difficult to call out and celebrate the achievements of employees when they are remote, but it is every bit as essential. Making time for small celebrations like birthdays or drawing attention to a job well done in group meetings can still go a long way towards maintaining workplace happiness and satisfaction.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to numerous workplace adaptations, many of which will remain long after the pandemic is over. Some have been difficult to accept while others have taken in stride. Some of the biggest changes we are seeing in a new hybrid workplace include a greater recognition and openness to flexible work schedules and changes in management style.
Regardless of the location, there are certain things that are always important to the success of a business such as a workplace diversity and employee appreciation — keep these in mind as your company continues to find its grove in this brave new world.