After the third wave, companies large and small are slowly returning to usual. But, what used to define ‘usual’ has changed, and both employees and managers are struggling to make sense of this transition. While employees are demanding more flexibility, better pay, and work-life balance, leaders are struggling to deal with mass pay cuts, layoffs, and a tight labour market.
In the midst of these trials and tribulations, transitioning back to office after making so many adjustments while working from home can be challenging. A number of issues can make you feel anxious. For instance, how does one go back to the office if he/she has been dealing with disease, having a child or taking care of their ageing parents?
These concerns were the focus of a recent LinkedIn Live session by People Matters under its Big Question series. Panellists Dedev Parulian, who is Cluster HR Head (Indonesia, PNG, and Timor) and ASPAC IR Head at ofi, Clare Muhiudeen, Head of Asia at WTW and May Yang, the MD and Global Head of Operations at Synechron deliberated on the post-pandemic work arrangement and highlighted factors crucial to transitioning back to office.
Office needs to be multidimensional
It took a pandemic for us to realise how rigid and unnecessary some of our conventional work systems were. Now offices have become a multidimensional, flexible, hybrid and adaptive space, where 9-5 working is no longer a critical requirement.
“Presently, we are seeing the office as an alternative work environment besides employees’ home. It’s more like a place where a company provides its workforce a space to focus, collaborate, learn as well as socialise. Most importantly, the post-pandemic office needs to inspire employees to connect with their colleagues as well as leaders, further enabling them to do their best work,” May Yang told People Matters.
Hybrid work model: Trust, don’t track
Instead of reverting back to the old status quo of office life, the hybrid work model is in flux among leaders. Many have dropped the pre-pandemic mentality and adopted post-pandemic reality. However, there are supervisors who still feel remote work isn’t the future of work and they need more control over their workforce. According to a LinkedIn survey, over 30 per cent of leaders fear that employees do not do their work as conscientiously in the home as they do in the office.
“We leaders know remote working has brought many opportunities for the teams, making them more efficient and productive. But often managers struggle to supervise their teams. Many feel that their employees will not work as much as they should when they are out of their direct control. By introducing a hybrid model, one can make trust-based work possible. Establish trust, accountability, and involve in a lot of open communication to make the experience meaningful and worthwhile,” said Clare Muhiudeen.
The leadership mindset
Change is the only constant and every organisational leader faces alterations on a daily basis. Finding a way to incorporate a change mechanism into the culture of the business is the most efficient way to handle big or small evolutions. As we are travelling far from the traditional work model, leaders must become the engine that drives everyone’s ability to adjust, adapt, and overcome problems.
“One of the crucial aspects to effective post-pandemic office is the evolved leaders’ mentality. Before asking the employees to adapt or adjust to the new model, leaders need to revamp their mindsets. After all, the right perspective is one of the greatest predictors of organisational success and also one of the toughest turns to make,” stated Dedev Parulian.
Why NOT let employees decide work arrangements
As organisations look to marry part office and part remote model into hybrid arrangement, leaders are having hard time determining pragmatic timetables. Hence, the question arises: who should determine hybrid schedules? The MD and Global Head of Operations of Synechron suggested this decision should be left entirely to the company and not the employee.
“The work arrangement for employees should be the company's approach as part of their overall strategy. If left to be decided by employees, the model will lead to confusion and chaos. You don’t want to be coming on days where your other team members are not in. For instance, at Synechron we've taken a hybrid model but made it very clear what are the days for the teams to come in,” May told People Matters.
Bring energy back to the workplace
Gone are the days when offices used to be a serious place where things get done. Studies say a happy culture will see numerous positive results, including better productivity and increased employee satisfaction. So, as you call your employees back to the office, ensure there is something that would attract them to be back again. Dedev Parulian and Clare Muhiudeen shared tips to develop a harmonious and positive workplace culture:
- Take and share regular feedback.
- Indulge in team-building fun activities.
- Celebrate special occasions, such as birthdays, work anniversaries and achievements.
- Let employees weigh in on office design.
- Go out together
- Encourage hobbies at work
To learn more from leaders about some of the burning questions in today’s world of work, stay tuned to People Matters' Big Question series on LinkedIn.