As much as everyone complained about the inability to concentrate on work while homeschooling their kids, last year introduced our entire workforce to a concept that was only familiar to a chosen few — agency.
For the first time in the history of the modern workforce, people were able to prioritize and manage their schedules in a way that worked for them as individuals, not just as cogs in the global system. We learned that if doing laundry while listening to some marginally relevant presentation works for you— you should go for it! Chances are if you were in the office you’d still be thinking about the laundry that needed to be done after a long workday.
And unlike the dire predictions of early 2020, productivity did not suffer during the pandemic— in fact, people were able to be more productive. What did suffer, however, was our level of stress and burnout— blurrier lines between work and rest and no clear end to the ultramarathon of the pandemic left everyone exhausted.
So now that the worst of the crisis is behind us, what grains of wisdom can we take with us? Specifically, how can we make the hybrid workplace work for working parents? Here are some steps that both employees and employers should agree on in order to retain and cultivate the best talent:
- Define what the “office” is. Ideally, it’s a place for meetings with your colleagues and for collaborative work. But for some working parents, it may also be a place to escape home chores. In order to be productive, define which tasks should be done in the office (probably more creative and collaborative) and what can be done from home (probably more routine work).
- If management sets clear guidelines of what is expected from workers in order to be promoted (e.g., attending company-wide events, direct client contact, in-person team meetings), it will help to reduce FOMO for mostly remote workers and prevent the creation of two “classes” of employees — those who are more visible due to their presence in the office and those who are mostly remote and less likely to be noticed for the promotion.
- If management makes all meetings available both in-person and via video conferencing, everyone will have a fair(er) shot at being heard.
- Employees must set clear boundaries in terms of work time and personal time. If organizations want to retain talent, they’ll have to listen and actually follow through with their promises of taking care of their employees well being.
One of the biggest stressors in any animal (humans included) is the perceived lack of control. Working from home and being able to control your own schedule will reduce this stressor. Since the majority of people are now getting paid for the use of their intellect, it is important to keep it intact, and nothing damages our ability to think more than continuous stress. If workers are less stressed, they will inadvertently be more creative— a win-win for the organization and the individual!