Our Ever-Changing Work Environment
How do you find the right balance and drive productivity for your organization?
Where have we been, and where are we heading?
A little over 3 years ago our lives changed significantly, including how we “went to work”. Various federal and company mandates required that we change things up dramatically. We asked our workforce to adapt and to change with us. Many approaches were taken – work from home, remote work, hybrid, hybrid with employee rotation, remote by job function and on and on. While our employees dealt with unprecedented circumstances, we asked that they continue to pivot with us through many changes and approaches as we tried to determine what would be sustainable.
Now, as the health crisis has subsided, we’re asking employees once again to change with us. Companies previously hired or placed employees within teams with the intent of “remote-first” or “remote-always”, only to now mandate back to the office guidelines. We evolved and pivoted in response to changing conditions, sometimes without involving key team members in these decisions. Companies made decisions to change, move or eliminate office environments – to sometimes be left with limited opportunities for new or emerging employees who crave or require interpersonal collaboration to learn their roles.
Based on these – and other economic factors – employee stress and anxiety is at an all-time high.
44% of employees experienced "a lot" of stress at work the day before they took Gallup's survey. As a result, Gallup says people are more burnt out and disengaged in the workplace, and are increasingly fighting with their bosses. – Scripps News, June 2023.
Companies are now mandating back to work rules and threatening employment if employees don’t return to the office. While not all of this should be a surprise, it is being met with significant employee concern or resistance.
Most recently, JPMorgan Chase is abandoning a hybrid attendance policy it adopted during the pandemic and requiring executives to return to the office. Meanwhile, Amazon's Andy Jassy issued a mandate for corporate staffers. And Salesforce's leadership has also drafted a return-to-office policy, according to a draft of the company's strategic plan shared in an internal Slack message viewed by Insider.
After buying Twitter in October, Elon Musk told employees in November that not showing up to an office when they're able to was the same as a resignation, (The Verge reported). Musk also told staffers in an email that remote work was no longer allowed and that employees were expected to be in the office for at least 40 hours a week unless given explicit approval to work elsewhere. - Insider Article May 2023
As leaders we must recognize stress levels are real and do have an impact on team productivity. Providing a balanced work environment will go a long way in determining the productivity of a team. What do we mean by balanced?
Ensuring team members are working an appropriate amount of time for the role. Many IT jobs require a high degree of concentration and productivity will drop dramatically when team members are working long hours.
Having a little fun and social interaction can help reduce stress. Using small groups made up of various functions is a simple way foster cross-connections and company insight.
Holding consistent one-on-one and team meetings can be very helpful. No one wants a meeting for meeting’s sake, but stand-up agile style meetings with a clear agenda can ensure productive use of everyone’s time, drive desired outcomes and keep teams and leaders connected.
As IT leaders, what are we doing?
Fortunately, many roles with the IT function have more flexibility than other positions within the organization. While nobody was prepared for a pandemic, many IT organizations already employed the tools that allowed them to better manage a remote working environment. Though the IT talent and recruitment pressures have eased from where they were in previous years, talent is still at a premium and may reside outside of your companies’ physical regions.
Utilize methods that have a proven track record. Technologies, specifically collaboration tools, have removed many traditional barriers. One of our clients employed twice a month connection points, providing insightful keynote speakers and establishing small groups, allowing exposure to other facets of the organization.
Find committed employees. Employees that are committed to their teammates, willing to be virtually available, understand there are times that in-person meetings are a must and will go a long way to building a strong team.
Allow for an individual’s locus of control – we’ve found employees that are internally motivated and appreciate flexibility, contribute to the team at a high level.
Measure productivity (sometimes a slippery slope). IT leaders are experimenting with and figuring out how to better measure productivity. Be careful as you will get the behaviors that you reward. As IBM experienced when they incentivized developers by the line of code generated, writing inefficient and blotted code was the outcome (Mythical Man-Month). We have found there is no perfect measure. Having employees engaged and available via collaborative tools is incredibly important. Short, purposeful, virtual meetings help to keep the goals front and center as well as maintaining team momentum.
Identify job roles that are not reliant on location – ones that can be productive with a hybrid approach and clearly define in office attendance policy. Be thoughtful and slow the rate of change (let your team catch their breath). Every change that you make will not only impact the employee but their circles as well (day-care, school pickup, etc.).
Find leaders that are comfortable with managing teams with a variety of work environments. This requires strong and consistent communication by your leaders. It will also require that leaders understand that a few “bad apples” will try and take advantage of remote work which needs to be addressed immediately.
How can we assist?
As teams look to gain a competitive advantage and build high performing teams, X1 can provide hands-on guidance, fill leadership positions and assist with creating clear strategies and roadmaps…..X1 is here to leverage our experience and networks to help by:
Providing interim IT or Operational Leadership to ensure you have a hand on the wheel to steer through times of disruption
Identifying opportunities to reduce cost, outsource select capabilities, or otherwise make budgetary room for recruiting and hiring the best leadership
Establishing or refining a strategic plan that drives the forward direction of the organization – and serves as the blueprint for your hiring process and finding the right combination of similar experience, cultural fit and proven leadership ability
Providing long-term management expertise (projects, programs) to allow leaders to focus on internal change and optimization, while keeping momentum on essential improvement projects
Assessing and evaluating teams and talent – as a key part of our assessment process, we actually start with an evaluation of the people. This is the most essential element for building and growing a successful organization.
Assisting in role definition, screening, recruiting, hiring and onboarding the right long-term resources for your organization…partnering to ensure that the proper person is positioned for success and remains accountable for results.
Stress in the workplace reached an all-time high in 2022 – Scripps News