In our latest Converge Special Speakers Series, Paul Gaskell and Parul Agarwal discussed the new COVID-19 landscape of virtual, hybrid, and everything in between. Together, they discussed the challenges of team building in our current environment, and shared their expertise around how to conquer those challenges. Today we’ll be summarizing their points on the foundations of that team building – the work environment.
Current State of the Workplace
It comes as no surprise that our work environments have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its current state is still ever-changing as we adjust to this new state of life. Parul emphasizes that open mindedness and nimbleness is vital for going forward as leaders. What has worked in the past will not necessarily work now.
As we slowly come out of the necessary adjustments of the last two years, there is a range of responses from organizations. Some feel no rush to physically return to work, comfortable in a remote setting. Many organizations have adopted a hybrid setting, coming in only 2 or 3 days a week. However, as Paul puts it, others are in a “full-court press” to get back to the office. This pressure from leaders to bring their workers back usually boils down to one argument: productivity.
Productivity in a Post-Pandemic Workforce
A common argument against a remote/hybrid work environment is that workers need to be in the office in order to be productive. But is this claim supported by any evidence? Paul and Parul discussed their findings.
While so much has changed due to the pandemic, the concept of hybrid or remote work isn’t new. Some companies started using hybrid models even before the pandemic, and documented higher productivity than a purely in-person environment. This can vary of course, depending on the industry or organization. Jobs centered around the individual, like accounting, or customer service might be easier to do remotely. On the other hand, jobs that require collaboration could face some initial challenges in a remote or hybrid environment.
Nevertheless, as Paul states, there is no strong evidence that there’s a loss of productivity from people working at home, regardless of the claims of many executives. Additionally, evidence even suggests that retention rates are higher in an environment where people have flexibility to work from home in some way, which is a helpful tip for employers facing the Great Resignation.
As Parul adds, so much has changed due to the pandemic. Mental health, family obligations, and other pressing priorities have come to the forefront of many workers’ minds, adding layers to this concept of productivity post-pandemic. A level of trust and accountability has become a pressing need in workplaces, and demanding that people physically return to work full time over a hybrid or remote environment displays a level of distrust in your employees. If coming back to the office is necessary, workers are more keen on leaders that have some sort of presence within the company.
Maintaining a proper work-life balance isn’t a new challenge to America’s workforce. However, the pandemic gives this issue layers. Working from home seemed great at the beginning of the pandemic. Eliminating our commutes alone gave us a bunch of free time, not to mention the ability to spend more quality time with family throughout the day. However, as time passed, the lines between work and life often blurred. Many have difficulty controlling their schedules more at a home office, often working through lunches or staying late regularly. How do we remedy this? It comes down to the leaders.
In a hybrid or remote work environment, leaders need to be able to draw parameters when needed to prevent burnout in their employees. A 24/7 work mentality can drain employees quickly. But done correctly, remote and hybrid environments can introduce a level of flexibility to our work schedules that benefit both business and employees.
Team Building: Virtual, Hybrid, & In Between
Paul Gaskell and Parul Agarwal are both executive coaches with experience in helping organizations and individuals evolve and prosper. In our latest Special Speakers Series, Paul and Parul build on these foundations of workplaces post-COVID to discuss the challenges of team building in our current environment. Watch the full discussion here!
Struggling to adjust to the changes in the workforce, employer expectations, and more? Converge provides a whole team of HR experts, with less overhead. Visit our website or schedule a call with us to learn more!