As businesses contemplate a future that is likely to involve greater levels of hybrid-working, entrepreneur Lara Morgan explains how leaders, managers and bosses must be ready to listen to the needs of their staff.
Humans, generally, don’t like change: Whether it’s a ‘change of routine’, ‘change in expectations’, ‘change of location’ or a ‘change in relationships.’ And following the outbreak of Covid, which is still not under control in the UK, there has been a massive change to working practices and habits across the country.
This is where business leaders and managers need to help each other to make adjustments. They need to behave less like dinosaurs and embrace changes in the work culture. If they don’t, they may just find themselves adversely affected by an overall decrease in employee performance, which ultimately results in reduced profits.
When the destructive virus appeared to be weakening last year, some companies made a low-key attempt to attract their employees ‘ or at least some of them ‘ back to the office. For other companies there was no office to go back to, having changed their working practices completely, while encouraging their employees to work from home.
I have read that, following these forced changes to working habits, output and profits increased. Not surprising really because, suddenly, families across the nation began enjoying a more balanced lifestyle. Therefore greater contentment in a person’s private life will usually generate greater motivation and better performance in the workplace.
That said, there were still winners and losers, and I personally endured moments of stress while trying to discover the best route forward for my own businesses post-Covid. At the same time I have enjoyed seeing more of my children and not having to suffer long hours of commuting.
But not everyone has been in a position to enjoy the time and space that those living outside city and town centres have been able to. The big question is how to create a balanced approach to life, and the economy, that benefits everyone. I say this in the wake of the stories appearing almost every day, which highlight the increased levels of poverty which are now starting to blight many regions of the country ‘ and needless to say, around the world too.
The pandemic has created many losers, and you can include graduates and those taking their first tentative steps into employment among this group of people. These people have missed out. They have failed to acquire the necessary skills, mentorship and confidence to progress at a rate similar to that experienced by their predecessors. These are not benefits which can easily be consumed via Zoom.
I, myself, have failed in this area too. Sometimes, I have had to deal with urgent business matters in my own space ‘ and by myself. Previously, this would have happened in the company of other members of my office team, those who are now working from home. And this has had a knock-on effect right through the various levels of the company, while slowing down learning and limiting communication along the way.
Sadly, it’s a fact of life, but ‘survival’ comes first and everything else suffers in moments of huge stress. But I do realise that the meetings we have held recently have made a huge difference to everyone. Gathering people together will benefit employees and companies in the long run, even if they don’t happen as often as they used to do.
I think companies, going forward, can learn and benefit from hybrid working. This can be good for innovation. I recently met up with a number of colleagues for a stroll around Blenheim Palace, where we walked, talked and drank coffee, while communicating about business. Collaboration through inclusion should be good for companies, even if meetings ‘ such as this one ‘ takes place in less familiar, yet more appealing, surroundings.
In other words, dinosaurs need to think more on their feet and embrace greater flexibility. If they fail to do so, they may end up being rejected by the workforce of tomorrow. Top talent will seek out more favourable options.
There will always be elements of risk attached to change. For example, this was the case long before Covid appeared on the horizon, such as when a company implemented a new IT system. This fact of life will never change. Therefore, our mindset for dealing with Covid and these new working practices should be no different to when we faced changes and challenges a decade ago.
I write this while wearing my new office uniform ‘ a dressing gown and slippers. I may even sneak off and enjoy some mid-morning yoga at the end of the next paragraph. I would never have contemplated doing this in the past, yet feel much better for it.
Therefore, bosses will have to accept that greater flexibility is part of this brave new business world. They will have to understand the meaning of ‘trust’ and be more open minded. However, it won’t happen overnight and I’m certain there will be plenty of arguments and disagreements along the way. It will take time to adjust.
There may be new variants and more lockdowns to face. The building of trust within companies will need to take place hand-in-hand with the building of a different type of office culture ‘ a hybrid one. Good leaders must recognise the emotional and physical energies of the entire team. The future is anything but clear and some companies remain close to extinction in our ever-tightening economic climate.
Risks remain, as we try to future-proof our business models. The need to create solid business foundations is more vital than ever. The time is ripe to review our purpose and vision. Have our targets changed? We certainly need to reduce waste (an absolute necessity) and recalibrate our use of fuel and water. Maybe downsizing will benefit the company?
In one of my own companies ‘ Scentered ‘ which is a mindful wellbeing aromatherapy brand, we have made big changes. We have found a new way to share our powerful 100% natural product that supports routine change. We are soon to launch an affordable portable mindful wellbeing balm, which will be available at WH Smith Travel Ltd. These outlets have a presence in many locations such as airports, hospitals, train stations and motorway service areas.
This product has been created to enhance our mood and well-being, and the same approach needs to be adopted by bosses towards their own teams as we move forwards in these increasingly difficult times. It’s time to think and do more for our staff, and we can start by asking them what they want?