As a coach of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial-minded corporate leaders, I pay attention to trends in people’s attitudes to returning to the office, both leadership and employees. In the beginning of social distancing, a “can-do, we got this” attitude united leaders and employees to improvise new ways of working in the face of unprecedented turmoil. Almost two years later, that “lean-in and get-the-job-done-at-all-costs” mentality that caused us to come together has led to workplace burnout and emotional apathy that is causing workers to quit in droves. Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” it has employers scrambling to find manpower, and is dumping additional work and stress on the remaining employees.
The entrepreneurs I coach are mostly in professional services, part of the “knowledge industry” where the service provided isn’t tied to a physical location. They had stable or growing businesses during the pandemic because their employees figured out how to complete their jobs remotely. As our society adjusts to COVID as a permanent reality, most of these employees prefer a schedule that allows them to go into the office 2 to 3 days a week, and work the remaining days at home
My clients are looking for ways to help their top talent deliver at a consistently high level. But this hybrid model leads to a whole host of uncomfortable management challenges, and gives rise to questions like: “Can an employee be required to have a dedicated space to work from home?” “How do we handle children and pet interruptions during virtual meetings?” “What’s the acceptable amount of time for an employee to respond to a question from a colleague?”
Companies are working hard to establish new expectations for a hybrid work environment because what hasn’t changed is that success, whether in business or in life, requires the help of many people. No one person has a monopoly on the good ideas, and no one succeeds alone. Ultimately, success depends on enrolling other people in the mission, and communicating effectively among the team.
A stable business requires all the skills that were important before the so-called “Great Pause,” (as the pandemic is referred to in some circles). To thrive in this emergent economy, business leaders must double down on “soft skills” to compete in an economy that was unimaginable two short years ago. Remote work has changed how we communicate by removing physical cues humans pick up when together, ie eye contact and body language. Effective leaders need to enhance their ability to communicate in a hybrid environment, and model this new behavior for their employees.
In my work with entrepreneurs, I’ve identified 4 fundamental skills that allow communication at a higher level, and enroll employees in contributing at a consistently high level. The next four blogs will examine these skills. One of them you may not have considered before, and I’ll save that for the last article. The other three skills you’ve likely encountered, and are already pretty adept at using. However, I will give you some new perspective to deepen those skills to increase their usefulness in this evolving work environment. I mean for you to apply them to your business, but you will see that in doing so, they will also affect the quality of your life.
Author: Jennifer Mallory 2022