The pandemic started with little or no warning and changed the landscape of work and the expectations of workers in ways we never expected. Now, depending on where you live and your specific context, the pandemic is ending – or you can see when it will be over. Leading post-pandemic requires understanding of where we are, where we are going, and how to be prepared. That is why we created a survey to learn where organizations stand, what their approaches to the future will be, and when they will start.
Let me share some of the big insights with you.
People have anxieties about coming back to the office
The list of anxieties about coming back to the office is led by health concerns. Fears and uncertainties about health, in many cases regardless of vaccination status, exist for some and are real. People wonder what it will be like to interact face-to-face again, even though they are looking forward to that social interaction. There are further concerns about the fairness of who comes back, for how many days a week, and for those who aren’t returning to the office. There are also concerns about being left out of nearly everything (more on that in a minute).
If your people are back now, some of these anxieties maybe resolving themselves. But if not, chances are good that people aren’t talking about these concerns – at least not to you. Just because you don’t hear it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And if people are anxious and worried – about anything – their productivity will be negatively impacted, and they may start looking for a different job, without you ever knowing it.
People are wondering about the physical workplace environment
Feelings from worry to concern to simple uncertainty over open office spaces, availability of quiet(er) places to work, and even if they will be sharing desks showed up in our survey at a significant rate. This issue will be very dependent on your workplace environment. If people had individual offices and that will remain, this probably won’t matter as much. But if not, and especially if you are moving to hot-desks, shared spaces, or hoteling, you need to gain some input into people’s concerns, and let them know how it is going to work. A big part of the problem currently is the uncertainty of simply not knowing what it is going to look like.
People are worried about two tiers of workers
Envision a work where some people are in the office, and others aren’t, either some or all of the time. Our survey found 60% of people know or believe they will work in some sort of hybrid working arrangement (most if not now, by September). While over 70% would like that arrangement, many are, rightly so, concerned that when some people are in the office with the leadership and others aren’t, there will be two tiers of workers. While this is talked about in different ways and the nature of the concerns vary from equity, to access to resources and leadership, to involvement in decision-making, to career advancement. All of these concerns are real, and history says all of these things can happen.
With careful thought, planning and training for leaders and teammates, these concerns can be largely resolved, but they won’t likely do so without conscious effort.
People are not looking forward to returning to their commute
Since the average American had a 27-minute commute to work (each way) pre-pandemic, it is not surprising people aren’t looking forward to returning to that stress, effort, and expense. The biggest concern though is the time. When asked over the last year how they are spending the time that they used to spend commuting, over 50% tell us they spend that time working. The worry is, if the commute comes back (even 2-3 times a week), how will they get that work done, where will they find that time again?
This is a real concern that leaders will need to help team members address. Whether the solution is help in prioritization, changes in expectations, or improved productivity strategies, without conversation and resources, this will be a significant stressor and have a negative impact on culture and productivity in the future.
Your “future of work” decision-making process will have a long-term effect on your organization
Here is some data straight from the survey. Of those who reported that the future of work for their organization had been announced,
- 42.18% of people report that the decision was made by senior management alone
- 42.57% of people were neutral, disappointed, or very disappointed by the decision
There are two big insights to draw and actions to take based on this single piece of data.
- If your organization hasn’t yet made this decision about the future of work, include more input and insight from the team. Doing so will create more commitment to the final decision, even if people don’t love the decision personally. The more input, the more commitment you will build.
- If your organization has made the decision, even if employees weren’t involved, you can still shift the tide. Now you can engage with them, listen to them, and let them have influence on how the future is implemented. when you do this you will create a long-term positive impact on culture, retention and morale.
These insights come from our survey, and all are consistent with what we hear, observe, and learn from working with clients every day. Since you will be leading post-pandemic, I urge you to consider each of these insights for their short and long-term implications. If you believe one of these doesn’t apply to your team or situation, I encourage you to do some listening in your organization. The chances that these concerns/issues exist on your team is high, and spending time thinking and talking about them are the best next steps for you prepare for leading post-pandemic.
Will you be leading in this new future? We have two ways to help:
- A free webinar! I am leading a brand-new webinar – Leading in a Post-Pandemic World – on June 24 from 2-3pm ET. I will address specifics of what you can do in a changing world, and keys to leading your team, regardless of where everyone is working. Details and sign up are here.
- A comprehensive learning experience. If you are trying to lead successfully in this new world of work, you may want training that addresses the nuances of leading a team that isn’t all in the same place. Enter The Remote Leadership Certificate Series. For over five years, we have been helping remote leaders grow themselves, their skills, and their teams in this working environment. Join us for this practical, proven, and powerful way to build your skills as a remote leader. You can participate in the series as a part of an upcoming virtual learning group. Or you can get immediate, on-demand access to all the tools and skills you need today. Start your journey to successful remote leadership here.