It's going to be a long road back
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford
The great irony of the last year of the pandemic is that we’ve had much more time alone to reflect on the power of working together.
In some cases, we discovered the value of flexibility, the formerly hidden need for shifted schedules, and the surprisingly sustained or even enhanced productivity of remote work.
I think what this means is that we all respond differently in these situations, and today’s leader needs to be tuned in to what employees might need.
As the pandemic begins to wind down and companies determine how they’ll expect employees to show up, it’s worth noting that there are some employees who are itching to get back to work, others who are apathetic about it, and yet others still who want to continue the remote work arrangement.
Everyone is different in that regard.
“Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn't have to be a lonely kind of thing.” — Fred Rogers
You’re most likely familiar with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the story of the man who survived a shipwreck and was marooned in a deserted island for 28 years. His story, inspired by a real-life event, was one of social distancing and remote work.
He accepted his fate and adapted to his situation:
“Thus I lived mighty comfortably, my mind being entirely composed by resigning myself to the will of God and throwing myself wholly upon the disposal of His providence. This made my life better than sociable, for when I began to regret the want of conversation I would ask myself whether thus conversing mutually with my own thoughts, and (as I hope I may say) with even God Himself was not better than the utmost enjoyment of human society in the world?”
Eventually, Crusoe was rescued and re-entered society. After nearly three decades of solitude, scarce food, and limited clothing options.
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” — Maya Angelou, 1986
The challenge for businesses today is that we have more than one Crusoe returning. Now we have to try to create cohesive teams out of a jumble of schedules. We’re past the time when a single 9 to 5 schedule was the one size that all had to fit.
It’s going to be a delicate balance of how much time is required in the office versus elsewhere. And employees will vote with their feet:
42% of current remote workers say if their employer doesn’t continue to offer remote work options long-term, they’ll look for a job at a company that does.
A majority of people surveyed said a hybrid work model — where they’re able to work remotely between 25% and 75% of the time — is optimal.
Two of the most powerful virtues of leadership are empathy and listening. These two superpowers are exactly what you need to determine how your team will work together moving into the future.
As you begin to return to the office, what can you do to minimize employees leaving?