By Salina Williams, Senior Consultant
Last week, Feldman Daxon hosted another in our series of HR Think Tanks with over 75 HR leaders from various sectors to discuss what organizations are doing to equip and support leaders as they manage remotely in this new normal of the pandemic.
Our guests contributed insightful and engaging commentary, including some of these highlights:
- Across both the private and public sectors, many organizations have initiated and introduced coaching to support leaders and managers to become more effective at working collaboratively in a remote environment. Many organizations still believe that leaders need more training on how to lead remotely.
- Remote onboarding for new employees has been quite successful, as many organizations are going above and beyond to make new hires feel welcome, making the technology seamless and sending welcome packages.
- Flex hours continue to be a huge trend adopted by even more organizations as the pandemic progresses, recognizing that many employees and leaders are juggling multiple priorities at home and work.
- One organization has implemented a company-wide mandate for “personal hours” stipulating set times throughout the day without meetings to ensure employees take time away from their work and better manage work/life balance.
- Many companies are initiating weekly socials to stay connected on a personal level, finding that employees are losing a natural ability to connect with others.
- Overall, leaders and organizations realize the key to successfully working remotely is consistent and regular communication across teams.
Many of our guests cited success stories and benefits of working remotely, including:
- Strategic Communications: Several large organizations are inviting employees at various levels to growth and strategy meetings, providing more employees with an opportunity to gain strategic insights versus just those at the top.
- Global Connections: Employees are growing relationships and frequently meeting and sharing information with their global counterparts, which is having a positive impact on business for many large and multi-national organizations.
- Recognition and Collaboration: Companies are providing recognition opportunities for employees who go above and beyond to help colleagues as there has been a noticeable increase in collaboration across many organizations.
- Connection to Purpose: The results of an employee survey at one large organization identified high engagement and productivity, and a stronger connection to the organization’s purpose.
- Flexibility to Pivot: Many organizations are proud of their ability to ramp up quickly to become a remote workplace and employees adjusted better than expected.
- Increased Communication from Senior Leaders: Senior leaders across many organizations became more vulnerable and “showed their human side,” resulting in positive impacts across all levels of the organization.
Despite the many positives of ongoing remote work, there do remain some challenges, including:
- Mental Health: HR professionals agreed employee mental health remains a huge concern. Many organizations have trained employees to recognize signs of lagging mental health and have provided extra EAP supports.
- Fatigue: Employees continue to work hard but lack of productivity is setting in for many. Employees miss the natural breaks and seeing colleagues throughout the workday in office, which often helps them stay motivated and on track. For many, the days are blending together at home.
- Relocations/Retention: Leaders are observing many employees are moving out of town, and wanting to work from home permanently, some even refusing to go back to the office. In some cases, employees are leaving the organization for roles with higher salaries.
- Hiring Practices: Organizations are placing a premium on training and coaching hiring managers as interviewing as shifted to a completely virtual process.
- Perceptions: In some organizations, the perception of inequality exists as hourly essential employees required to work on site view salaried employees working from home as not working very hard.
- Vacation: While companies across the board have encouraged their employees to take time off throughout the pandemic, many are noting employees are not using their vacation time.
As organizations consider the future, discussions remain as to whether or not remote work will continue once the pandemic is over, and if so, what will that look like. Some companies have formed official re-opening committees and others are working to renovate existing spaces that are collaborative and digital-first in approach and design. Most leaders agree that providing employees with options regarding a return to office seems to be the best approach as a recent survey indicated 70% of employees wanted to continue to work remotely. A hybrid model of balancing working remotely with days in the office seems to be a popular choice for the future for many organizations.
Leaders are still focused on how workplaces will change and how to communicate this to their employees. So much remains up in the air as many organizations have no set dates for changes to occur. Leaders are also finding this time in limbo to be beneficial for focusing on initiatives that were set aside at the beginning of the pandemic. Two key future-leaning trends are offering learning and development opportunities for leaders on managing and leading through change, along with continuing to find new ways to communicate, connect, and work collaboratively in the virtual workplace.
This was a great opportunity to gain valuable insight into ongoing trends, challenges, and success stories as we are into the second year of pandemic life. Now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding reopening business and a return to pre-pandemic work life, we look forward to meeting with HR leaders again to discuss their evolving plans and leadership success.