People like flexibility in their work schedules, but the flexibility to one organization or person may need to be more flexible to another organization or individual. How we work together in the new workplace environment that has evolved since the pandemic is the subject of a new book, Culture Shock, by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, both executives with the Gallup Organization.
Just the facts
Research contained in Culture Shock — and summarized in media materials — states:
- Globally, eight in 10 employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work; in the US, it’s seven in 10.
- 90% of U.S. employees with desk and office jobs aren’t longing for the old workplace to return, and nearly 40% of employees say they would change jobs for an option to work full or part-time from a flexible location.
- 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined by just the manager.
- 75% of employees who reported receiving meaningful feedback in the past week were fully engaged regardless of how many days they worked in the office.
“What’s happened is we’re seeing separation or some more distance between employee and employer,” Jim Harter told me in an interview. “People are feeling more distant from their employer.” And when there is this distance, employees also “start to become psychologically separated from the customer. And they’re even telling us now that they feel less responsible for the quality of service customers receive.”
“The manager needs to lead the team and having a discussion about the kind of work they’re trying to get done and really filter those decisions through three criteria,” says Harter. The first is how we work either individually or collaboratively. The second is how to schedule and maintain a cadence of in-person meetings that complement how people want to work. The third factor is how to maximize customer value via interactions. Especially those that occur at the office.
There is another factor, says Harter working together and having fun. That kind of socialization builds cohesion and ultimately improves team performance. “I think that’s something people often forget.”
Additionally, according to data contained in Culture Shock, “among workers in the U.S., there is a dead-even tie between work-life splitters (who prefer strict hours) and work-life blenders (who might get work done on an evening or weekend). Both can be highly engaged and productive but leaders must identify which is which to prevent burnout.”
Burnout from working remotely may seem counterintuitive. After all, many employees want to avoid commuting and like to be near their children. As Jim Harter told me in an interview, the reason is that work times are not defined. When employees come and go at will, schedules are nonexistent. Cooperation and collaboration are less likely to occur. Therefore, says Harter, management must do a better job of setting schedules that make sense to both businesses and employees.
“Anyone in a leadership position — whether it’s a frontline manager, a middle manager or upper management — needs to set the example. People are more likely to come in if they know their manager will be there. If they don’t, it seems like an empty request to them.
Need for development
A good example is observed, but it can also be taught. Harter believes that when you train managers to be attuned to the needs of their employees, they will be more responsive to their needs. Listening to them is always necessary. Building psychological safety into the workplace — whatever physical form it takes builds upon a sense of respect.
One aspect of instilling and nurturing a more robust culture is peer coaching. It is essential when managers can share their ideas with colleagues in ways that enable them to be open and feel listened to. Peer-to-peer coaching and learning can be virtual, and its results can play out in all work environments.
The pandemic caused a great upheaval in how we work. The challenge now is to learn to work differently in ways that fulfill the needs of the organization, its customers and its employees. When such changes occur, engagement, retention and productivity improve.
John Baldoni is a member of 100 coaches and leadership keynote presenter. He has been recognized as a top 20 leadership expert by Global Gurus, a list he has been on since 2007. He is also ranked as a Global 100 Leader and Top 50 Leadership Expert by Inc.com. John is the author of 15 books. His leadership resource website is www.johnbaldoni.com
Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.