Finding a better work-life balance has long been a goal for most people in the workforce. This came into sharp focus during the past year, with child- and elder-care competing for our time throughout the traditional workday.
While overall productivity and collaboration continued to thrive, it wasn’t without cost. Women, in particular, found themselves facing stark choices as household demands continued to fall disproportionately on their shoulders. Despite the challenges, people have found they’ve reclaimed some of their time and want to give it back. While some wish to return to the office as quickly as possible, most want to continue working remotely all or part of the time.
Just as businesses rose to the challenge to protect their employees’ health, they must now continue to adapt and shift expectations. To retain and attract quality employees, now more than ever the ‘human’ in HR must be emphasized. They must not only encourage but support their staff to continue finding a healthy balance in their lives.
Everyone’s solution is going to look different, but there are some universal steps businesses can take to help facilitate the move toward this new work environment.
Acknowledge the end of the 24/7 work culture. It’s debatable whether this “ideal” ever worked for either the employee or employer. But now that people have reclaimed some of their time, their personal lives being ever more visible to their co-workers and supervisors, businesses need to stop endorsing this notion once and for all. Everyone has personal demands on their time, and those won’t end with the pandemic.
Rethink our definition of the office. It’s clear a shared physical space isn’t a requirement for working and creating together. Staff returning to the office (and those who never left) will have to adjust to a very different environment. Remote staff need assurance the tools they’ve been using to stay connected won’t be pushed to the side in favor of water cooler conversations.
Make the shift to asynchronous collaboration. Choose quality over quantity or speed. This benefits everyone, not just those who will remain remote. It acknowledges that inspiration and imagination aren’t constrained by arbitrary boundaries of a meeting agenda. Content created from professionally managed video conferences can extend the “life” of the meeting, giving everyone an opportunity to participate and share their ideas.
Whether they wish to return to the office or stay at home, employees are looking for more balance in their lives, more time for responsibilities outside of work and more empathy and understanding from their employers.
When businesses began moving their operations into remote workspaces, it’s reasonable they tried to emulate the office environment and culture as much as possible (especially considering the urgency to move quickly). But while the results have been satisfactory and productive, companies need to shift their mindset away from this traditional model toward something more open and flexible.