The Great Big Juggling Act
In the two plus years of COVID it is safe to say that nothing has been the same as it once was.
We have been locked up, shut down, had curfews, separated from friends and family, told to stay home instead of going to work, watched people get sick and even die, watched our favourite restaurants and cafes just disappear, never to return and we are still discovering new changes every day. And then told don’t worry about any of that anymore!
If you made a movie about the last two years, it would almost be considered fiction, not to be believed.
The impact all of these things have had on society cannot just be measured by the visible, we must also consider the relationship breakdowns, the bankruptcy cases, the mental health traumas and the fact that it has created a more cautious, and in some cases, angrier society, that will take a long time to heal, and some situations will never heal.
With the introduction of work from home and a new hybrid work model, face-to-face interactions that are so important to our state of mind and wellbeing are being further diminished. Now I know many people would say that they enjoy the new model of work and in some cases, it can work very well, but not in most cases.
People are just not programmed to be able to work alone or self-manage and strategise without the support and the motivation of others around them. Those daily discussions that just happen, those open conversations that we overhear that might provide an idea that we were looking for, or those all-out brainstorms/meetings where people actually have to be present in mind, body and spirit, all are far more effective when we are together.
However, one of the great things that has happened is that new ways of interacting, such as Teams and Zoom, have allowed us to stay in touch and keep communication happening. That is great, but we also need human interaction and touch so that we minimise the danger of becoming isolated from our teams.
I am a great believer that organisations should be more flexible, and it is evident that they are becoming that way, unfortunately, often not by choice.
We must be very careful that we do not bring in rules that in themselves are not flexible. Rules that offer a blanket approach to flexibility are dangerous and do not offer flexibility at all but instead just replace one way of doing something to a different way of doing it.
As a business owner myself,
I am always concerned when we only consider one of the three stakeholders of the business. To be successful and to create a great culture, all stakeholders in the relationship must be considered – the company, the staff and the most important of all, the client. How often does the client, the reason a business even exists, get to be considered when we are making changes in how we work.
Flexibility in all of its forms must be a part of daily existence, where all three parties are considered equally, realising that sometimes sacrifices will have to be made by all parties for the greater good.
The problem is that many people think they now have a more flexible work situation, but in fact there is now no line of delineation in their life as work is now a part of home and home is a part of work and so the BIG juggling act begins.
I have the privilege of working with leaders every day of my life and I have never experienced a time when these leaders have found it so hard to lead. It is like leading from a distance permanently.
So, how can we continue to manage well when we are not necessarily face-to-face with people all of the time?
- We must have clear operational guidelines and expectations. Yes, there must be rules and regulations, like staying online and being accessible during work hours and attendance at group events.
- Always remember that there are three parties in every transaction that must have needs met. The company/leader, the staff member and the client. Entitlement must not be allowed to be demonstrated by any of the parties.
- More than ever, have timelines for actions. Create clear timelines when projects must be completed or when follow up communication must happen.
- When a person is working remotely don’t feel guilty about contacting them – they are working! However, time negotiation is always advised.
- Try to get time where people do come together as often as possible – it is not either/or, it is both.
- Remember, none of the leadership tools and processes should change just because we are remote more often. Good behaviour is good behaviour and poor behaviour is exactly that and both must be handled appropriately.
My belief is that things will settle down and balance out as people realise that working alone with all of life’s interruptions is not as great as it may have first sounded, and companies realise that flexibility does work better for some people.
Remember: human interaction is not just a work-related thing it is actually an important part of our life. This is where we are challenged and where we can express ourselves and have input into other people’s lives.
So, don’t become an island or allow others to either, because you will soon see a huge creativity drain take place in your business that will have a lasting impact.
The important thing is that whatever model we choose works well for all three stake-holders – the company, the staff member and the client.
Then and only then will we experience success both personally and professionally.