Lockdown was the easy part, coming back to work will be harder
Mark Davies (pictured) is managing director of Link Mortgage Services
Many bosses will be chomping at the bit to get back to the office but for many there may well be a rude awakening. Just as this is not a linear process for companies neither is it a linear one for individuals and the challenges will come from every quarter.
I think we are arguably on the precipice of one of the most difficult periods of business management we have likely ever encountered.
When we locked down there were no choices – we simply coped (in some cases better than others). We entered lockdown not knowing what to expect, it was a new experience. Coming back is different, we remember what the working world was like but have now adapted to the lockdown world. The opportunity to get things right and wrong are very real.
We have been working from home for a very long-time. Old habits and behaviours have been forgotten and new ones gained. Just this week I heard a story about a teacher, who under severe and undue pressure from a poorly behaved parent, snapped and ‘bit back’.
Now many will think this situation should not have escalated but the point is that a lack of practice over the past year in that face-to-face environment meant it did. Teaching remotely has forged new behaviours and challenges that have made physical interaction a bit more tricky in the first few weeks of the return to school.
This particular incident will be resolved but I suspect many of us have not thought through the impact of returning to work over and above maintaining social distancing. Be under no illusion – behaviours will need relearning. It might be like getting back on a bicycle but expect some people to fall off so better have your first aid kit ready.
If we needed any evidence of the issues facing many employees it was laid bare in a Microsoft study this week that uncovered many business leaders are “out of touch.” The research, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, polled 30,000 people from a variety of companies in 31 countries and used trillions of data points around labour and productivity from Microsoft’s 365 software and LinkedIn network.
It found burnout among workforces is widespread with 54% of workers reporting they are overworked and 39% saying they are exhausted. Time spent in Teams meetings has more than doubled and keeps rising, meetings are 10 minutes longer on average and the typical Teams user is sending 45% more chats a week, with 42% more of them after typical work hours.
Last week, an internal survey of Goldman Sachs’ first-year analysts showed that if working conditions do not change in the next six months, most first-year analysts say they are unable to stay at the investment bank and that the stresses of work have been detrimental to both their physical and mental health.
Employees are reassessing their futures in numbers not seen for a long time. There is a disconnect between bosses and staff with 61% reporting that they are thriving, almost 23% higher than the average worker. Many people working remotely are overlooked by their managers and company leaders, who were the only group polled in which a majority said they are ‘thriving’.
If the return to work is to prove successful, everyone will need to play their part. Expectations and support need to be set correctly.
While people talk of a ‘new norm’ they almost certainly don’t know what that is yet this pandemic goes much deeper than that, has touched people in a way never anticipated and underestimating its impact on our attitudes and well-being will be costly financially and spiritually.