Much has been said about working during the pandemic. There is new data appearing every day about the effect of different workplace configurations, whether its remote first, hybrid, flex, or simply back at the office, on employees. None without their complexities.
As the co-located leader of multiple international offices, I have been personally ‘hybrid working’ in my role for a while. Working remotely and outside of typical 9-5 hours for good chunks of the month was part of my norm long before the pandemic came and turned working life on its head. The difference then of course is that my setup was generally the exception amongst the people I work closely with. It was my responsibility to integrate into and sustain my relationships within a status quo we were all familiar with.
During the pandemic however, everything changed for everyone. All at once. This was an entirely different way of working to negotiate as a leader, and its lasting impact on how people relate to each other, and their role, is palpable in organisations everywhere.
The dynamic between what we now know is possible and what is sustainable is delicate; and we all have opinions on what is best. Here are a few observations that have influenced my thinking:
People need connection
Many of us tried new and interesting things to create connection during the pandemic, but where lockdowns ease in different parts of the world, this attention to human connection may be lost, overlooked, or taken for granted. We decided a hybrid model was the best way forward for our business, and when people were hesitant about returning to the office, I was surprised by the ‘why’ that I found behind it.
Beyond the obvious COVID concerns which we can mitigate, there was an anxiety about interacting with people in person again. This has required a nudge to help people get over the anxiousness about meeting in person. Dusting off the social skills, re-learning the emotional intelligence skills that come from reading body language beyond what you see on zoom, and the fatigue many feel after a face-to-face meeting or day in the office. Encouraging and supporting people to take the first leap is a new thing. Interestingly, the nervousness and reluctance give way to a rediscovery of what is great about meeting in person, and the energy and creativity that is unlocked when we do.
We have all been in the same storm, but not necessarily the same boat
Each person in the storm is in their own boat. Their personal resilience, health and family circumstances are all unique, which makes their experience in the storm unique. The leadership challenge is balancing what is best for the individual with what is best for the team or organisation. This highlights the invaluable role of each individual’s immediate leader. Striking the correct balance happens most positively where the connection between the individual and the organisation exists at the most personal level- the manager.
What used to be, may no longer be
Organisation or team culture that was once strong may be weakened. Relationships that used to work may be fractured. The diversity of views on the pandemic, some of the world issues at large, and even company topics have become divisive for some. The virtual work environment has led to many of these spiky topics being voiced in ways not formerly accepted. These differences of opinions have put individuals at odds with each other. As a leader I have found the need to review my beliefs about how it used to be. Is that the right ‘how it should be’? Are there at-risk relationships that need attention? Does the culture need revisiting? Reworking? Reinforcing?
Amidst all of this and wherever you are in the world, as leaders we are entrusted with one of our company’s most valued assets: our people. Discovering a new and better way, honouring what used to be, and helping our people be in a position to produce great results for their team and the organisation is not only the priority, but the opportunity.
To find out more about our approach to building 21st-century skills, explore our complimentary toolkits or reach out to us directly via email [email protected], phone (0) 1295 274100 or online here.
SHARE THIS PAGE
Curtis Bateman is FranklinCovey’s Vice President for International Direct Offices, spending his time split between Salt Lake City and the UK. With over 25 years’ experience in the training industry, he is an internationally recognised presenter, content developer, change consultant, business leader and coach. His passion for enabling organisations 'at change' was established early on, resulting in him co-creating a number of transformative, industry-leading solutions, such as: Change Element, [email protected], Managing Millennials, [email protected] and the Change Practitioner. Curtis has a great love of the outdoors, enjoying frequent hikes with his wife and four beautiful children.