As the nation begins to leave its lockdown, gradually reopening businesses while simultaneously supporting the population with vaccination roll-out, sectors are reviewing the practices they adopted over the health crisis’ most challenging times and considering which operations should continue. Changes were quickly made, some out of necessity, to ensure that, as safely as possible, businesses could continue. For many, this meant simply encouraging a remote working environment, whereas others had to more deeply consider how their operations could continue.
Since some of these changes have proven to be successful, increasing productivity or security, they won’t all be discarded in the pursuit of ‘normality’. In fact, for some, the pandemic was an essential push that was needed to adopt certain operations, those that will continue even as the country reopens. This is why it is now important to review the trends defining businesses, across all sectors, because it seems that great changes are likely to continue.
This topic has been a focus for many discussions, notably across the Learning From Leaders web series created by People Group Services, who have repeatedly posed questions to their guests to better understand how various changes have affected and will continue to affect their operations.
The change most commonly mentioned within this collection of interviews, a collection now in its third series, is a consideration of the human element within the professional setting that seems to now be taking place across all business sectors. This has been demonstrated in broad and numerous ways, with businesses taking greater responsibility and duty of care for their staff’s mental health, to an emphasis on mentorship and leadership.
Remote working and digitally collaborative employees are proving to be more productive, however, this comes at a cost of communication and mental wellbeing. As such, while many businesses are finding themselves generally very happy with the transition to teleworking, they are keen to establish a new culture of interaction. James Fernades tells of his own experience of this, noting that, despite his business’ sales figures being higher than ever, “working remotely is much more tough than any other role” going on to discuss how it’s far more difficult to motivate employees with an email than in person.
Challenges like this are felt across the board and there are fears that, while productivity might be currently higher, there is a risk of alienation and burnout. These are the result of working in an environment apart from others but also one that requires self-discipline to navigate. The unfortunate conundrum that managers are facing is that those employees who often go the extra mile, who can also be trusted to perform well even without supervision, now have their own caveat as they tend toward over-working and failing to ‘switch off’ without the guidance of a shared working space, leading to burnout.
A greater focus on employee well-being is now seemingly paramount, with services like workplace counselling and team-building exercises being more commonly adopted as businesses seek to strengthen and invest in their workforce, with the general consensus being that investing in staff has been clearly demonstrated to offer the most important return.