We’re no longer chained to our desks, in suits, ties and stilettos (although in agency land that hasn’t been the case for quite sometime). We’re not battling long commutes and barely making it home for bath and bedtime with the kids, a nice evening walk with the dog, or an opportunity to make it to the spin class you’ve always fancied trying. We’ve got greater flexibility now, we have options and our lives are richer for it.
Hybrid, remote first or fully remote
Whether it’s a hybrid, remote first or entirely remote workplace, many of us are now settled into our home working routines, be that once, twice or five days a week. We’ve set up homeworking spaces, we’re comfortable in our homeworking attire, and we’re enjoying the autonomy that homeworking appears to provide. Many are even enjoying the opportunity to travel and explore, working from different locations and experiencing life in a very different way now - all fantastic stuff!
Let's talk about the challenges
Let’s be real for a minute though…we can’t hide from the fact that there are challenges that come with hybrid and remote working. I’ve touched on them before in a previous article ‘Hybrid working; from challenges to solutions within weeks’, but by way of a reminder, some of the challenges highlighted by business leaders and employees alike around remote and hybrid working include;
Missing out on in person social interaction
Getting new starters fully up to speed and integrated with the wider team
Organic fun and water cooler chat (that doesn’t require a Zoom link and agreed time!)
More open, empathetic and transparent communication and conversations
Collaboration and adhoc sessions that stimulate creativity and innovation
Commitment and access to learning and development (otherwise known as the development dip)
Back in 2021, 87% of UK business leaders said that young people had been hit by a “development dip” as a result of the prolonged period of remote working during the pandemic.
In an article published on incentiveandmotivation.com it was stated that;
some of the key experiences that employees are missing out on in support of their development include learning by “osmosis” from being around more experienced colleagues (and colleagues from different departments), developing essential soft skills and building their professional networks.
I have particular interest in the challenges that surround ‘learning by osmosis’. As stated by business psychologist Lee Chambers and highlighted by Sarah Darwod soft skills such as telephone manner, managing conflicts and collaborating are learnt through observation. “You can’t read a book to learn these things,” Chambers says. “It’s very much something that you just pick up. Remote working can be challenging because you don’t have the chance to observe people in more senior positions and how they handle things.” Of course in reality there are books, and courses designed to help people gain an understanding of areas such as conflict management - but are they really a substitute for observation and ‘on the job learning’ through osmosis?
What’s more, both for new starters and those with longer tenure, the lack of organic and informal chatter and conversation can leave employees feeling alone and isolated, with no one to easily turn to when they have questions, further slowing down and reducing opportunities for ‘on the job’ learning and development.
In September 2021, the aforementioned article on incentiveandmotivation.com suggested that;
“78% of leaders were planning to introduce training courses to help employees adapt to new ways of working”, and furthermore, many of them were planning to increase welfare budgets to enable more social events to support and encourage relationship building.
So now as we begin to draw a close on 2022, and as companies continue to try and navigate ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’, ‘the development dip’ and not to mention a global recession, what is actually being done to combat some of these challenges, to ensure that people can continue to grow, learn, evolve and thrive in the workplace in addition to experiencing the benefits of an improved work/life balance that comes from remote working?
How are business leaders innovating?
How are we innovating and moving the dial to help employees build meaningful relationships with colleagues, regain lost confidence in speaking to clients, networking and giving presentations?
Developments in technology enabled us to tackle unprecedented lockdowns and forced remote working when the pandemic first took a hold. We were all quick to jump on Slack, Teams and Zoom - and many of us now favour a Zoom video call over a telephone call (although this is your friendly reminder to think about taking just a few of those as a walk and talk to get up and away from your screens!). Since then there has been a surge in employee engagement and surveying tools, new people, culture and HR systems and software all promising to help people stay better connected and heard. We’ve been inundated with webinars, virtual events and panel discussions, but how many of these are really getting under the skin of the real issue here - and that is a lack of in person social interaction and subsequently a lack of ‘real life’ learning opportunities.
My prediction (hardly groundbreaking) is that this will continue to be a challenge for businesses now for the foreseeable future as employee expectations, wants and desires from the workplace have shifted. The cost of living crisis will likely have a further impact with people retreating to their homes and looking for ways and means to hunker down and save money on the likes of fuel and car maintenance costs.
Many have settled into the remote way of life, and they’re not looking for this to be disrupted again. The flexible, remote and hybrid working revolution has taken hold and business leaders need to find ways to lead from the front identifying new and intelligent solutions putting people front and centre.
Shifting focus from productivity and efficiency to long term social impact
The focus of hybrid and remote working solutions up to now has been almost entirely focused on improving productivity and efficiency…not on the overarching longer term social impact.
The shift in 2023 needs to enable us to reinvent and innovate our approach to remote working. Whether it’s the metaverse or something else that is set to revolutionise and change the face of remote working, business leaders must genuinely put their people’s welfare and opportunities and access to learning and development at the top of their agendas with solutions that begin to solve what I am coining as ‘the great osmosis rebound’.
Have you got thoughts on how you’re tackling this for your teams?
Perhaps you’re looking for some support to gain clarity on the real challenge here for your business with some dedicated and structured time to work through what solutions could begin to look like.
Our personalised workshops, hosted by our specialists are tailored to you and your business needs, and as your external partner we have the luxury of dedicated time to focus on your future. We’re not bogged down with fire-fighting, BAU and internal politics, enabling us to pull you out of the weeds and clear the path for growth.
You lose ground when you stand still.
Let's get moving.
Author: Emma Simkiss, Managing Director, Freestyle