The New Workplace
March 2020 was a huge turning point. What are the challenges of the post-pandemic workplace?
There’s a new balance to be struck between driving performance and honouring the human behind the role. There’s a lot of blurred lines between our professional and personal lives.
For many, commuting was the boundary between work and personal life. Now for many people, that’s gone. We go to work in the next room or in the same room that we’re eating in. That’s the reality of a lot of our worlds. For others, it’s navigating different challenges and risks if they’re in a ‘front line’ role.
People are tired from trying to navigate these changes and now they have the added challenge of figuring out new ways of working, perhaps a hybrid or remote working model. We hear a lot now about people looking for more from their employers, trying to address this personal and professional balance.
So where is the opportunity?
It’s in creating real connection, despite the challenges. Leaders and managers need to engage with the human side, to build trust and a sense of psychological safety in the workplace. It’s about checking in - taking the time to have real conversations.
We build trust by having real engagement, where we really listen. If we can have a difficult conversation with someone, they know we’re willing to put our cards on the table to improve trust. It’s also about consistency over time – saying what you’ll do and doing what you say.
How do you build that connection and trust in the virtual or hybrid workplace?
Keep communications clear and explain the ‘why’ – give the context of your decisions. It’s not about assuming our communication style lands the same way with everyone, especially via technology.
There’s definitely an importance in increasing our awareness of group dynamics. Someone might be quiet on zoom, but still have something to say. It’s important to be aware of proximity bias too, and ensure that remote team members are not missing out in any way. Watercooler moments can be developed, even over technology, it takes some creativity but it is doable. One manager arranged a meeting for employees every second or third Friday where they were allowed to talk about anything but work, and there was such an impact on the team’s connection. Not all meetings need to be in a meeting room or on zoom for example, consider a walk and talk. It’s about finding ways to keep connecting, it’ll have a positive impact.
Is there a culture war between those who want to be in an office and those who don’t?
There’s a balance to be struck. And we have to remember, what we’ve seen with remote working since the start of the pandemic is not a realistic working model, with kids at home, and other stressors. But because we can’t see the solution right now doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We need to challenge old habits and act on what we’ve learnt so far, what’s worked, what hasn’t and importantly, what are your people saying? We have to remember, we are more than our work – the workplace of the future needs to honour that.
Please be aware that all of the views expressed in this Blog are purely the personal views of the authors and commentators (including those working for AIB as members of the AIB website team or in any other capacity) and are based on their personal experiences and knowledge at the time of writing.