There’s no doubt that Covid has been a disruptive force in many of our lives, perhaps leading us all to ask more fundamental questions about the work we do.
Everyone’s experience has been (and continues to be) different and entirely subjective, however, many people who have been working from home have seen the benefits, in terms of spending more time at home with their families and a better work life balance. Many have fundamentally started to question whether their career (as it existed before the pandemic) may still be right for them.
The way we think about work has changed
Our experience of (and attitude towards) working from home over the past 12 months has, for many of us, fundamentally reshaped the way we think about work. That is likely to have far reaching consequences for the way we recruit and retain talent. It will be interesting to see how these attitudes continue to shape in the coming months and years.
Covid could be seen as a reset button for many of us, where we’ve all previously been so busy and distracted to truly question what we, as individuals, are getting from our careers.
Employees may also be planning career changes because they just don’t see a future in the viability of an individual business or the industry sector – even if they think it’s just going to struggle in the short term. In the end we each have to consider security for ourselves and our loved ones as a matter of priority.
Working from home has had its own challenges, but it’s useful to remember that working from home during a worldwide pandemic is different to working from home in more ‘normal’ times. Working from home whilst simultaneously home-schooling whilst under the potential threat of redundancy, alongside an invisible, deadly virus isn’t exactly normal times.
This brings into sharp focus that we must continue to engage our employees in the direction of the business, to listen hard, to understand their concerns and therefore what we could do to help them. If we can create a win-win, so they get what they need and we get what we need in moving towards our vision in a post-pandemic world, then surely that’s the route to long term success, or at least a very good start.
One positive to draw from this worldwide home-working experiment is that despite the unusual circumstances and the haste in which it’s been thrust upon us all – it’s been relatively successful. Working from home isn’t by any means perfect – but certainly a viable option and even preferable for many. Opinion seems fairly split in terms of whether people want to be (or ought to be) back in, or out – and that goes for both employers and employees.
Future of work looking more flexible
If there’s any takeaway from this, it’s that the future of work is looking a lot more flexible. Just being physically at work doesn’t make us productive. We all work in different ways and have bursts of productivity at different times, some may be more productive early in the morning, others later in the evening. So maybe we can find ways to encourage more flexibility so that everyone has the chance to be more productive in a way that best suits them. Clearly not practical in all situations but maybe more possibilities have opened up and we should at least try to listen and learn.
Creating more value from the time we actually spend working can only be a good thing for any business and for any individual. Time is precious after all.
As businesses are about growth – more sales, more customers, more products, more innovation – are we willing to share a little more of the success with the people who make it run?
The people we employ are, after all, our most valuable asset and they alone are the route to long term success. No matter how sophisticated our systems and how clever our business model, we’ll still need people (for now at least) to drive it forward and continue innovating.
New opportunities and potential threats
There’s little doubt that business has been, and will continue to be, in a state of change for some time yet, that’s partly due to Covid but let’s not forget the ongoing advances in technology and globalisation. The reduced need to be physically present in every case has also opened up new opportunities and potential threats.
Some employees returning to work after furlough may struggle to adapt back into the routines of work life and may feel there is some catching up to do on live projects, a lot can happen in 9-12 months. They will need time to adjust and it may bring a few challenges, in some cases maybe even leading to life and career changes.
We all also have to take into account the mental health challenges that many people have faced and the anxiety that may come with returning to the workplace.
Change brings its own specific challenges and, given the turmoil of the past 12 months, it’s even more important that we take people on the journey with us. For many, change brings uncertainty and fear so it’s more important than ever to ensure we have everyone on board and comfortable. Change Readiness has never been more important and engaging those involved in and affected by any change is critical to that.
‘Test the water’ periodically
The challenge is often how to know, especially among a large population and there is no shortcut to taking the time to listen to concerns. You can, however, use Change Readiness Surveys alongside to “test the water” every now and then. This can help to quickly identify any concerns so that they can be addressed swiftly.
Employee (talent) retention has always been a complex area and there are many factors involved. The “grass can seem greener on the other side” and sometimes people will move on, that’s perfectly normal. All we can do is continue to work towards creating the conditions in which the needs of the business and needs of those involved in the business are as closely aligned as possible. And above all, especially now, be kind.
Applied Change specialises in helping businesses to navigate their way through changing circumstances, from adapting to broader market or technology changes and opportunities to streamlining in order to become more profitable and more competitive. For more information visit https://appliedchange.co.uk/.
David has worked in digital marketing for over 11 years. He has worked agency-side, client-side, and now as a freelance digital consultant. Along with his consultancy work, he writes content discussing technology, finance, and digital subjects.
As a side project, and to solve a problem in his local community, he designed an app called Enviroute which helps users get the latest updates on the Severn Bridges.
If you want to work with David on your content marketing, or improving your digital agency operations, you can reach out via his LinkedIn profile here.
Interesting related article: “What is Teleworking?“