Understanding Work in a Post-Pandemic WorldApril 6th, 2022
It seems we can’t go a day without seeing something in the news or a trade publication discussing life post-pandemic. For many, day to day life looks a lot different now than it did two years ago. One of the largest paradigm shifts that has occurred surrounds how we approach business and the ways in which employees and whole companies function in this "new normal". While the sentiment at this point in time indicates an openness to reenter public spaces, many are left wondering What does work look in a post-pandemic world?
Over the last several months I've asked this very question to hundreds of startups in our network. Here are my learnings:
#1 Reconnect your organization to your “why”
Without question, the pandemic afforded us time … A LOT of time. Eliminating the ubiquitous distractions of everyday life allowed many to ponder decisions they'd made personally and professionally. Themes that emerged from this stream of thought included personal fulfillment, work-life balance, and the question of "belonging" within an organization. While it’s encouraging to see employees searching for meaning in what they do, these sentiments highlighted the immense need for businesses and their leaders to reconnect with their company's "why".
Having a clear "why" is essential. It allows team members to recognize their role in the larger picture, helps to guide important strategic decisions, and rallies an entire organization together around a common goal. As a leader, making your company’s mission resonate with your team is perhaps one of the most important, most impactful choices you can make.
#2 Understand the new employer/employee status quo
Another side effect of the pandemic is that employees now recognize their bargaining power in a bold way. For the first time in years the job market is skewed in favor of job seekers over job providers.
Job seekers are adopting a more selective search process. Company culture, benefits, DEI, and work-life balance are paramount in many job searches. The pandemic caused numerous individuals to reexamine what they find important in life; thus, now more than ever before, we're seeing job candidates looking to contribute to something they deem "bigger than themselves", and find that they'd like to work with someone instead of for them. In this we see a pivot in perspective around the hierarchical structures within organizations with a preference towards horizontal, informal hierarchy as opposed to a traditional vertical chain of command. By necessity, some form of middle-to-upper management will remain, but many folks are forecasting that the borders between roles, at a minimum, are subject to blur.
#3 Adopt a renewed outlook on retention vs. replacement
It's no secret that turnover is one of the costliest aspects of running a business. The pandemic highlighted this reality - causing employers to hone in on employee satisfaction and retention programs. The "Great Resignation" has had massive effects on every business sector. Labor shortages are rising and many companies have had to drastically pivot their organizational structure and operations in order to survive.
Replacing unsatisfied employees is like churning customers - immensely costly and often a result of neglect or poor management. While we can’t guarantee how exactly this will play out over the next few months and years, we predict that employee satisfaction and benefits offerings will remain top of mind for many. Additionally, this level of care will likely go beyond employees and trickle into how businesses interact with their customers. In many ways the two ideas are related. Presumably, happier more engaged employees will make for happier more engaged customers. It's an imperfect science but the through-lines cannot be ignored.
#4 Hybrid is here to stay.
Maybe you’ve loved it, maybe you’ve hated it – regardless, the hybrid model of working is here to stay. While there are certainly areas of virtual work that pale in comparison to face-to-face interaction there are also numerous benefits to adopting this operational change. Naturally, hybrid work makes the physical world a lot smaller. Each of us now has access to resources and diverse talent pools that we might not otherwise have been able to tap into. Overall levels of productivity and efficiency have dramatically increased, and many people feel a heightened sense of autonomy in owning their unique approach to hybrid work.
We expect to see a return to in-office work across industries in the coming months; however, it's doubtful that in-person attendance will ever reach the level it once held.
#5 YOU define your company culture, not the work style you adopt.
While we’re all still trying to figure out what the path forward looks like, there’s a lot YOU can be doing in the meantime to ensure that the journey ahead is as transparent, collaborative, and equitable as possible for your organization. The best approach is always to lead with honesty and communicate openly with your team. The openness you lead with will help shape how members of your company communicate with one another.
Additionally, it's essential that you maintain a strong company culture (especially if you're pivoting to a hybrid or remote-first working style). While the methods may look different, you still have every ability to connect with your team in meaningful ways. Celebrate wins, address uncertainties, and support those struggling to make the adjustment to a new working style. Each of us is more than our job title and recognizing individual needs is a fantastic way to earn and build a loyal, invested team.
Cheers to the future of work – however you define it. We’re all in this together and with a little effort, a lot of intentionality, and perhaps even a bit of luck we can transform the modern-day workplace for the better.
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