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EACCNY “Post-Pandemic Labor Law” Series | What will the New Normal look like for Employees and Employers?

With the help of our members, we are creating a Thought-Leadership series on the impact of COVID-19 on Labor & Employment from the perspective of both sides of the Atlantic. Today, we present Lena Beck Rørvig, Founder & CEO of BECK GLOBAL CONSULTING, along with Len Adams, Founder & CEO of ACG RESOURCES, who will address: “What will the New Normal look like for Employees and Employers?”. |


We will hopefully see the light at the end of the covid tunnel in the coming months.

This light at the end of the tunnel is now causing employers and employees to reflect on how work has evolved over the past year, with many companies forced to pivot to a remote work concept.

This pivot has caused a complete disruption, or if you will, the next revolution to hit the world economy. Not unlike the Industrial Revolution and the Information Revolution, this revolution will demonstrate a complete change in how and where people work.

Home or in the office as the new normal?

Over this past year, large numbers of employees were ordered to work remotely or from home, if they were in the type of job that enabled them to do so, due to quarantine orders and stay-in-place orders.

While this may have been frightening for employers and employees alike, what everyone thought would be a short-term situation turned into a one-year plus norm.

Several areas caused the biggest concern for employers:

  1. Productivity
  2. Information Security
  3. Disengagement of staff
  4. Ability to manage effectively

For employees, the most significant concerns were:

  1. Professional Disengagement
  2. Social disengagement
  3. Ability to focus

While there is some validity to most of these concerns, it appears that many employers and employees have been able to overcome these challenges during the past year.

Many large companies have recently announced that they will require employees to come back to the office (of course, subject to Covid policies and barring any further surges) by late Spring/Early summer 2021. We are anticipating that the new “NORMAL” concerning where people work will probably consist of the following for different companies:

  1. Fully Back to office
  2. Fully Remote
  3. Hybrid

Each of these solutions brings with it some challenges. Fully back in office assumes that employees are comfortable coming back to the environment, traveling on public transportation, and adjusting to a different type of work environment (i.e., no office kitchen/cafeteria, temperature checks). However, there is a presumption that as more and more people are vaccinated, and, notwithstanding the spread of variants, people may have more of a comfort level.

The fully remote option, which many employers have adopted over the past year, could be attractive to employers and employees who have successfully managed it.

However, from a recruitment and employee turnover viewpoint, there is a challenge to those employees that are not happy being remote or, for reasons of not having a suitable home workspace, cannot adapt. This is of particular concern to millennials, many of whom are accustomed to the perks of the “social office”, ping pong and the preference to not be cooped up in a one bedroom apartment. These perks will probably not be immediately available for the foreseeable future, even if fully in-office or hybrid options are available.

While on the surface, the hybrid option can be a good alternative and has its own set of challenges, not the least of which is scheduling. One challenge with scheduling is when having a team meeting, will the team members working from home be as engaged or taken as seriously as those in the room?

Needless to say, while there are challenges, there are benefits as well. From the EMPLOYER viewpoint, the ability to recruit from other locations, thus opening the talent pool. From the EMPLOYEE perspective, opening opportunities that may not have been available to them previously are just two of the many benefits.

All in all, this shift in how and where people work is merely a shift in dynamics. In previous generations, employees started a position after graduating and stayed until retirement. Over the course of years, due to changes in company attitudes about layoffs and employee attitudes regarding job changes, this dynamic shifted. Whereas years ago, recruiters or employers would look at a resume that showed more than one or two jobs and wonder: ”why did the candidate move so much?” to current times when a resume that has only one job and the reader wonders, “why has this person not made any job changes”.  This change in acceptance of employees no longer staying with one employer until retirement is similar in dynamic to the change we are seeing now relative to where people do their jobs..

Impact on diversity

Many companies have worked hard and fast to accommodate their employees in this ‘new normal’ e.g., having children attending school virtually, smaller kinds not in daycare, etc. They have given more flexibility to the employees while on the other hand employees have stretched their working hours. Many employees report that their working hours are stretched not only over the day, but evenings and weekends as well.

Unfortunately we have seen that the impact on diversity has been negative. Reports have shown that female employees feel more burned out and under pressure than male employees, according to the 2020 Women in the Workplace study. Women in emerging economies are struggling even more.

We see more women leave the workforce or take less challenging positions, setting back the positive trend on gender diversity in the workplace. Companies need to address this sooner than later because if action is taken now, $13 trillion could be added to global GDP compared with the gender-regressive scenario we see as a result of the pandemic.

There is no doubt that the digital trend we have seen during the pandemic is here to stay.

Many, if not all, companies have to think digital. All businesses now have to believe in servicing their clients online, from delivery to online service. To fulfill this their employees need to be digital savvy as well.

Digital is the tool; humans are the creators. To ensure companies have the right people with the right competencies, companies have to consider that women and especially women from emerging countries, might have to be educated in digital tools. The rapid tech development and the impact on all aspects of business make this necessary.

An example of this is McKinsey’s report stating that ‘women in France, Germany, and Spain will have an increased need for pandemic-induced job transitions at rates 3.9 times higher than men. In Europe and the United States, the groups that will most likely need to change occupations after the pandemic include women, members of ethnic minority groups, and workers with less than a college degree.

Companies will have to prioritize this post-pandemic, ensuring they have the right competencies to support future growth.

One could fear that we will experience a setback but think of the $13 trillion – what company does not want to be part of that?

What employees want in the new normal

Working from home has proven to be good for productivity. But unfortunately, we also know that working from home has brought people feeling burned out, demotivated, and sometimes even anxious. We also know that teamwork is much more difficult when people cannot meet each other in person.

In the new normal, leaders have to be aware of this and address it. If not addressed, working fully remotely or hybrid working, we might see reduced job satisfaction leading to lower performance.

So what makes employees perform, stay motivated and energized post-pandemic?

Generation Z, the millennials will in four years by the majority of the workforce – 75% by 2025. Our knowledge of what drives generation Z and how we attract and retain the best is a perfect platform for leading and managing all employees in the new normal.

What we see employees want post-pandemic and in the new normal is what we know gen Z wants. Implementing that knowledge now is vital for future success. Millennials are driven by:

  • Flexibility
  • Cooperation
  • Transparency
  • Frequent communication
  • Opportunity for professional development

Last but not least, they want

  • purpose.

The above complies with what employees in general need for performing working remotely or hybrid.

A major challenge for many companies will be and is retaining people. Millennials not only have a desire to assume more challenging duties and on-the-job growth, but they also expect it is offered to them. Higher pay is not the only solution.  This new normal requires managers and leaders that are ready to lead according to what the employees want. Leadership development that focuses on how leaders can be catalysts for the individual employee will be a priority.

In today’s world, employees want to do good, change the world, and have influence. Be proud of what they do. This taps directly into many companies’ mission, vision, and values. Now is the perfect time for companies to walk the talk and align leadership style and HR policies with their higher goal. Attracting and retaining the right talent is vital for success, aligning the company leadership style with its purpose is worth the investment.

Remote work and hybrid working require transparency and frequent communication. Communication should not only be regular but of a quality that makes the employees feel heard.

Lack of professional opportunities and lousy leadership are two of the most frequent reasons why employees change jobs. We meet people who are both frustrated and disappointed that companies do not foster internal career moves. Lateral as well as horizontal. There are now very efficient systems available to facilitate and support these processes. It is not always an option for smaller companies to offer lateral and horizontal development for all employees. Here transparency and communication are key. Have an open dialogue about what the company can offer and what the employees are looking for.

Last but not least, employees want flexibility. It might be the flexibility of working from home vs. being in the office. It might be working hours, some weeks more hours than others, or flexible vacation time. It requires leaders who trust their employees and leaders who can lead according to the individual employee’s challenges and motivation.

Leading in smooth water and prosperous times is not where people are tested for their leadership skills. It is leading in a crisis that really puts one’s skills to the test. Leading remotely is not a new discipline. What is new is that almost all managers and leaders now have to master both leading people who work remotely and leading people in person.

This past year of the pandemic has proven to many employers that working remotely or a hybrid solution can work. If nothing else, the pandemic may have, for all the bad it created, been the conduit for a positive change in the way employers and employees will work together in the future.

Authors:

  • Lena Beck Rørvig, Founder & CEO of BECK GLOBAL CONSULTING
  • lbeck[at]beckglobalconsulting.com
  • Len Adams, CEO & President of ACG RESOURCES
  • lenadams[at]acgresources.com

Stay tuned for more on this series! We hope you enjoy these Thought-Leadership pieces written by our members.