The way we work has been evolving for several years, no longer is a job 9 to 5 and conducted out of an office revolving around the desk you occupy. In the modern world, the expectation is that everything is available 24/7 and as workers we have an expectation that we can do this from anywhere, at any time, securely and performantly.
As employees and businesses plan to return to offices, everyone is keen to retain the ability to operate in a hybrid model rather than return to the daily commute and being tied to a desk during working hours. It is a real opportunity for business leaders to redefine the way they operate to maximise employee productivity whilst at the same time providing the right work life balance.
For me there are 5 key considerations for organisations in 2022, which will have a critical impact on the shape of working going forward:
1) The death of 9 to 5
The working week of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday has been around for a long time, and was something that was introduced more than 130 years ago to allow governments to track worker’s hours. It is no surprise given that in 1890 when the US introduced the tracking, many workers were doing in excess of 100 hours work (I know some of you at this point are saying “I still do that!”).
Changes to the 9 to 5 and five day weeks has already started, and we have seen recently countries such as Belgium introduce a trial of a 4 day week, and many other countries are following suit.
By eliminating the mindset that equates working long-hours or rigid 9-to-5 workdays with success, and moving towards work arrangements that allows employees more control over not just where they work but when they work, (like a four-day work week or unfixed working hours we can achieve more effective outcomes for both businesses and employees, and better address the rise in ‘connected fatigue’.
2) Remote Working is here to stay
When the pandemic started two years ago we never expected remote working to become the norm, and now it is expected by employees as an option, no matter what role they do within an organisation. The major challenge for businesses now is, what is the right model to adopt going forward that is best for the business and their employees, to ensure maximum productivity and the right work life balance?
Going into 2022 we are seeing different models emerging that include working from offices full time again, or alternatively working remotely full time. However, the most common model being adopted is that of a Hybrid one, which sees employees and employers balance their time between home and the office, with varying degrees of flexibility on location, days, and frequency.
3) The Role of the Office will change
As previously highlighted, remote working is here to stay - but the role of the office will evolve in line with the changes to the way we work.
The traditional office still has a role to play in the future, from incidental moments of conversation, to planned collaboration and idea generation; bringing people together in person can provide those important touchpoints. As we adopt a true hybrid model the office will go through a similar evolution.
The office will be there to provide focus time to employees for collaboration, to form company culture, and to provide a location for events. The time away from the office will allow you to focus on the administrative tasks we all have to do, and also to provide a focused environment for when we have complex work to complete.
4) Employee Well Being is Key for Employers
One of the benefits of the last two years is the greater awareness of mental health and the need for a better work-life balance. Prior to the new way of working, many people worked excessive hours without talking about stress or mental health, and it was just accepted as the norm. In fact, in some cases, it was seen as a weakness to talk about being unable to cope, which just seems madness today.
Stress is important as you need some level of stress to perform to your optimum ability, but there is unhealthy stress when we lose control, and this has a major effect on burnout, and also fatigue.
To help employees stay motivated and perform at their best, physically and mentally, leaders need to champion well-being programs that redefine resilience, create an environment of collaboration and build a compassionate and purpose-aligned work culture.
5) Don’t Wait for others, Lead
One of my main observations as we plan for the return to offices and the new remote working policies, is many business leaders are waiting to see what everyone else is doing so they can copy perceived ‘best practices’.
What works for one organisation is not going to necessarily work for another - so why are so many leaders waiting for others to make the first move? Business leaders know what is right for their business, they know their processes and people better than anyone else, and therefore should put in place the right working policies for their organisation. This is a chance to formulate a new remote working culture that embraces change and show them as true thought leaders.
And it is OK to make mistakes as we are all learning. No one will nail this first time, but take your employees on the journey with you, - listen to them and it will strengthen the company culture and your relationship with your employees.
2022 is going to be another year of change for all, - but this time for the better. So start making your plans today! And if you want to discuss what could be possible, then please reach out to me as I would love to discuss your thoughts on the future of work and what are the options organisations have when approaching a hybrid model.
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