America (and the World) is Having a Major Medical Incident
It’s not surprising that office workers are favoring hybrid or remote work. Here’s why.
It was my husband’s birthday in 2015. We planned to go out to dinner right after work, and agreed to use a different park-and-ride to shorten the time it would take us to make it to downtown Bellevue (WA) for dinner. He dropped me off just as my bus was pulling in, so I started jogging towards the bus, dragging my day bag, in hopes of making this bus rather than waiting another 10 minutes.
Bad idea. On unfamiliar pavement, I caught a toe in the concrete and went down. Not just down on my knees, no, a full body slam. As I landed on my right side with my right arm extended to catch me, I heard it right next to my ear. Crack! I had broken my shoulder. OUCH!
I hadn’t needed to be in a hospital in 29 years; I was kind of proud of that streak. Now I had surgery ahead of me, followed by physical therapy. It wasn’t the worst kind of medical incident I could have had, but it made me reevaluate 1) running after busses, 2) my Diet Coke habit, 3) a whole host of other things that needed to change or stop. I straightened up my diet and lost some weight. I took up Transcendental Meditation (www.TM.org) to lower my stress level, and I swapped out Diet Coke for peppermint iced tea.
My experience is child’s play compared to what the world has encountered since COVID-19 upended all our lives. The Earth is having a major medical incident unlike anything we’ve seen in 100 years. And it is not over.
We’re all enduring this major medical incident, and individuals are reacting just as they would if it were a more “traditional” incident (heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, etc.). Cooped up in our homes for 16 months or more, we’ve had plenty of time to reevaluate our jobs, our partners and spouses, where we live, and why we’ve chosen the lifestyle we have. In the US alone, there are over 620,000 families who have lost a loved one to COVID; their lives will never be the same.
So I’m not surprised that as we slowly reopen, those who have the option to work from home are choosing to stay there. Some have moved to less expensive places to live, counting on the fact that they could work remotely in perpetuity, or would change jobs to a company that would accept permanently remote workers. Some moved to larger living spaces so they could establish an office in their homes. Some quit the workforce entirely, realizing that now might be the time to finally start that entrepreneurial venture.
The “Great Resignation” as it’s been called, is a real thing. I monitor a Facebook group where professionals lament the departure of key employees because they’re being required to return to the office. One leader mentioned receiving 5 resignations in one week, and the company only had about 150 employees. The way we work has experienced a seismic shift, and attempts to return to some kind of pre-pandemic “normal” will fail as a result.
So what happens now? Well smart companies have already started to re-think how they work and why they feel the need to have employees back in their places in the office. Some companies recognize that they’ll lose key employees if they insist on a 5-day work week in the office. Others are trying to compromise with “hybrid” work, insisting that employees have to show up to be seen at least part of the time. But more traditional companies are flatly refusing to allow remote work to evolve, which will ultimately be to their detriment.
Some companies are stuck on the idea that “innovation” can only happen in person; that serendipitous hallway meetings are where the real sparks are. Not true. One thing the pandemic did for us is to accelerate the advancement and use of collaboration software. It is far, far easier to have those sparks fly in a virtual meeting now than it did even 2 years ago. The learning curve on this type of software is minimal. The biggest obstacle to innovation in a virtual environment is mindset: management mindset.
To be successfully manage a remote team, it takes leadership, not transactional management. The managerial “drive-by” check-ins of the past must now become intentional conversations with employees that are meaningful and timely. For some managers, that can be intimidating.
Similarly, the biggest obstacle to successful remote management is mindset. As a manager in a virtual meeting, you’re just another square on the screen, equal with others, unless you demonstrate your leadership mindset, attitudes, and activities. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve seen other successful leaders make that transition.
If your company wants help making the transition to a hybrid or a fully-remote workplace, visit www.RemoteLeadershipSuccess.com to learn more about our programs for C-Suite executives and related corporate leaders.