Now the world of work is regrouping after Covid and we’re in reflective mode, what business lessons can we learn from that extraordinary period? Although we were catapulted into remote working, some companies unwillingly, organisations rapidly uncovered distinct benefits. So, what are the lessons learned from remote working?
Liberation from the 9-5
There were aspects of working from home long term and having more autonomy that people found great and liberating. Remote working took the emphasis off presenteeism as people were struggling with homeschooling, illness and just living and working in the same space permanently. Employers were reassured that ‘doing it’ was worth more than ‘just being there’. A hybrid workplace model means that employees can make work work for them and employee satisfaction and therefore retention rates increase as a result.
Small everyday interactions were sorely missed during Covid, and employers realised just how much their teams needed each other on a personal level. “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” as Joni Mitchell sang, and Ballou’s distributed teams across Europe really missed each other during the travel ban. Like many companies, we ran quiz nights and then upped our game to include virtual chocolate tasting, stargazing, weekly yoga and boxing classes.
A word of caution about leading hybrid teams. It requires boundaries. Teams need help to demarcate their home and work lives as these lines can become blurred when working from home. Hybrid working should not mean always available. Consider banning WhatsApp for work – why? Imagine a potential work issue occurs to you as you’re putting your children to bed. Rather than shelving that for 9am the next morning, making a note of it somewhere so it doesn’t slide off the to-do list, you message a question about it to a colleague/employee. They’re just about to eat their evening meal and then find themselves trying to interpret if you want them to fix the issue, simply acknowledge receipt of your message or call you. They message a colleague to find out if the colleague knows more about the issue than they do. Before you know where you are, you’re all on a grumpy Zoom meeting at 9.30pm.
Emphasis on mental health
The traumatic events of the coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on mental health in the workplace, particularly in the context of managing hybrid teams. Companies began focusing on their Mental Health Policies and benefits and recognising the importance of stress management and counselling if required. This awareness has now become more ingrained in the culture of organisations and organisations are judged on it as a benchmark of a responsible employer, which is a truly laudable outcome from the crisis.
Words of warning
The danger of a hybrid company offering hybrid working is that anyone working purely remotely becomes a second-class citizen. Those in the office are getting exposure to a better cultural and social experience as well as opportunities that happen on the fly which are learning opportunities for younger or newer employees. We must ensure that the working model is suitable for all of us, including our younger colleagues. Working from home when you have 20 years of experience under your belt, and a comfortable home office to work from, is a very different prospect than for someone starting out on their career, living in a house-share with an unreliable internet connection. Work is often more than just work, it is a place to socialise and form essential connections too.