Workforce Challenge: What is the New Norm?
For however difficult the COVID-19 stalemate has been, I can confidently state that many people have discovered passions to replace time normally spent commuting to the office or classroom. And while remote work has eliminated geographic and time barriers, companies are beginning to tackle challenges in returning or adopting a new norm in the work place. Among these challenges include:
- Aggravated Inequality
- Creating Flexible Work Arrangements
- Company Culture and EQ
Especially among new hires and those who were in the midst of a career transition, COVID-19 threw a hitch into the ability and availability to gain tangible work experience. Onboarding, fostering technical capabilities, and adopting a sense of company culture are all critical to harnessing authentic enthusiasm from employees. Workplace inequality extends beyond initiation into an employee's long-term work ethic, ability to communicate with managers and peers, and even for their candidacy in promotions.
If companies are able to identify where inequalities may arise and develop programs that seek to up-skill and engage workers, perhaps we can dodge this return-to-workplace hurdle.
Creating Flexible Work Arrangements
As people work from the comfort of their living rooms and home offices, they also take on greater responsibilities in other areas of life. COVID-19 has shown organizations the importance of developing emotional intelligence (EQ) especially as it relates to an employee's family and health. A prominent example is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in which employers can grant paid leave for an employee to address COVID-19 or health-related needs for themself or their family.
As public transportation reopens, many workers now face a heightened risk of exposure. How might companies address this? Potential solutions could include:
- developing a reservation-based company shuttle program
- creating work modules in more remote communities
- offering greater flexibility in work-hours so that employees might avoid rush-hours
Perhaps this is where a tiered approach can be useful. This is done by identifying different groupings of "critical in-person", "hybrid", and "flexibly remote" workers. The question then is in what way and how quickly should companies begin to adopt a multifaceted workspace. As much as it is a challenge, this hybrid work model can offer potential efficiencies in eliminating the need for large centralized offices, promote greater employee loyalty, and attract truly global talent.
Which leads to the final challenge.
Company Culture and EQ
For however easy setting up a Zoom or Teams meeting at any time of day is, it cannot fully replicate the in-person skill of reading body language and developing emotional intuition. The final challenge for executives is how to create a cohesive and engaging culture. On one end of the spectrum, new hires will have had no experience of in-office work dynamics, how to work with their teams, and how to communicate effectively with managers. On the other, more seasoned employees may withdraw from the social element with a sense of "I just need to get the job done".
Therefore, it is critically important that leaders and managers adopt a communication method that works for their team. Whether this be through creating slack channels for more task-oriented workers, setting up weekly one-on-ones for those who need a little more personal engagement and reassurance, or--as mentioned by one of our speakers--creating a CEO Weekly Vlog to put a more fun and engaging spin on executive communication.
More than ever, an executive's role is less about being a director as it is a companion who understands what are personal and workplace needs, how to communicate effectively, and what activities to have or to not have in order to foster a strong sense of culture.
In conclusion, the challenge of closing inequality gaps, creating flexibility in the work model, and developing strong EQ and company culture are an unprecedented opportunity for transforming a static workplace into a flexible and adaptable workflow.