While everyone is eager to return to some semblance of the life that existed before the pandemic, when it comes to work, the jury is still out. Current research suggests that a staggering 100% of employees are experiencing a great deal of stress at the thought of returning to the office. A common misconception is that employees prefer working from home simply because it allows them to avoid work, while focusing more on personal matters. However, research on working remotely and the impact on productivity in 2021 shows that “On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive [and] work one more day a week.”
- Working remotely can increase productivity up to 77% [source]
Another common myth regarding remote work is that employees are inundated with distractions that would otherwise be avoided in an office environment. In a virtual workplace, there would naturally be an increase in digital distraction such as emails, texts, alerts, etc. However, the fact is that many employees report that they spend less time attending large (and let’s face it, somewhat pointless) meetings and aren’t subject to the common distractions that can occur in an office. No offense to foosball tables and catered lunches. When asked about productivity, sales associates report spending 9% more time interacting with customers. This may be because working from home allows employees to choose when to focus and when to relax. Working (and learning) from home gives people time to reflect and absorb information better.
As companies begin the process of bringing people back into offices, boardrooms, and events, they’re going to need to address the stress of returning to an office environment. Nearly a third of workers simply don’t want to ever return and 80% of employees want to continue remote for at least a part of their week.
Leaders need to understand the underlying emotions and concerns that their employees are experiencing and demonstrate care and empathy to support them. How teams function is going to be a function of how well leaders react to this shift to the hybrid workplace.
Why Employees are Resisting a Return
There has been a mindset shift in the way that workers view their position within an organization and many are questioning the effectiveness of working in a traditional office setting. According to research, the top stressors for employees returning to in-office work are:
- Exposure to COVID-19
- Loss of work flexibility
- Added commute times
- Wearing a mask in the workplace
- Childcare needs
As well, we’re hearing about the potential exodus of many employees in a post-pandemic world. Among the many factors driving this trend, employees cite:
- Lack of interest in returning to the office
- Concern about effectiveness of hybrid work
- Leadership’s inability to effectively manage virtual teams
COVID-19 has surfaced issues and produced insights that can actually benefit organizations looking to build high-performance teams. Because of the shift to working from home, many leaders and managers have been forced to re-examine how their teams can function at their best. In other words, high-performing teams aren’t simply the ones that show up in an office 40 hours a week.
Where’s the Water Cooler?
Not all interactions are going to be as casual and simple as when working in an office. Many times, leaders will need to encourage participation, conversation, and engagement through virtual meetups. Leaders need to find new ways to gauge employee satisfaction and maintain the human interactions that make them effective leaders in the first place. The next challenge is to take their existing skills and pivot them into a hybrid leadership role.
Leaders need to become champions of change and support the organization by helping their teams manage the transition to a hybrid model. They need to support their employees by leading, coaching and managing virtual teams in a way that addresses the whole employee and takes into account their unique personal and professional journey.
Managing Virtual Teams Checklist
Effective leaders will need to use the available resources, technology, methodologies and training to become the best version of themselves. The best way to support virtual teams is by becoming a champion of virtual leadership. Learning and Development professionals are instrumental in bringing critical leadership learning programs to their leaders and managers.
Explore the many learning programs available to begin building a checklist of essential skills that leaders and managers will need for managing virtual teams in the coming years. Here’s a sample of leadership development courses that you can put into production immediately to see a fast turnaround on ROI:
- Accountability in the Workplace
- Building Trust and Credibility
- Adapting to the New Working Model
- Coaching for Performance
- Conducting Engaging and Effective Virtual Meetings
- Consciously Unbias
- Creating a Culture of High Performing Teams
- Critical Thinking
- Diversity to Boost Innovation
- Managing Virtual Teams
Each of these courses is designed to support leadership development, which in turn can help drive change strategy. L&D leaders have the opportunity to support leadership with training that also accommodates their life/work balance. Learning programs can be developed with blended learning methodologies to leverage the best of in-person learning and virtual learning tools available. The key to a successful learning strategy is to understand what material is best suited for each modality to engage and reach learners.
CoreAxis can help you build your leadership development strategy to address the unique learning requirements of your team. Check out the full list of courses available and contact us for more information on developing custom courses, built around the specific skills requirements and learning needs of your leaders. Together we can build a strategy that supports managing virtual teams and leverage the cutting edge tools, technology, and methodologies that are not only academically sound, but incredibly effective at engaging learners. Talk to a learning professional today to get started.