The New 9 to 5
The only constant in life is change and given the impact of the recent global pandemic of COVID-19, this truth has never been more relevant than it is today. The landscape of work has changed and we have been introduced to terms such as Skype, Zoom, Meet, and Teams - words that have taking on a new meaning given how the previous paradigm of a job design has been disrupted, requiring organizations, managers, employees, and consumers to make modifications to our behaviors and adjust how we engage with the others. Cubicles, corner offices, and conference rooms do not hold as much weight today as they previously had pre-March 2020. Businesses have been challenged to change the way they define work and office hours for employees. Additionally, companies had to find new ways to connect with its consumers, leveraging the capabilities of technology that may have always been available but were not fully used to its capacities. Here are a few of my observations looking back over the last year.
Change can be extremely difficult especially if the current methodology in which we do something produces our desired results. One of the dreadful statements that anyone can make especially in today’s climate is the phrase, “That is how we have always done it”. While I am not sure if this comment was ever relevant it is most definitely not applicable today given the evidence that we now have that work does not have to be accomplished on site, at a desk, or in the office. Many organizations were able to allow their employees to work from home, enabling them to set up virtual offices in the comforts of their home without losing productivity. Recently, “Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.” Given these results, perhaps there is something to be said about being able to work in your pajamas or only being required to dress from the waist up to ensure that you are “professional” during the endless amount of virtual meetings.
Employees are capable of being accountable for doing their jobs without the need to be micromanaged by supervisors or to be physically present to their coworkers. As proof that the world did not come to an end and that the economy has continued to move forward, given that not all sectors of the market have been able to fully recovered from social distancing, reduced occupancy, and closings, the majority of business have been able to keep the lights on, providing products and services for its consumer base. In the past supervisors would rely on workplace encounters to track the productivity, dedication, and progress of their employees in addition to assessing moods, proactively addressing mounting frustrations and stress before it had an impact on productivity. Now, however, while there are still additional challenges that managers have to deal with, they have the ability to serve in more of a coaching/mentoring role, helping employees to stay motivated as he/she completes organizational tasks.
Employees like the autonomy, or freedom, to complete their job in a manner that is conducive to their preferred workspace, mental state, and systematical approach, given that it produces the desired end result aligned with what leadership is requesting from them. In his book Drive, author Dan Pink states that intrinsic motivation is based on three key factors: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, where autonomy is defined as “The need to direct your own life and work. To be fully motivated, you must be able to control what you do, when you do it, and who you do it with.” In many instances employees are required to work from home so they can control where and when they do their work. For instance, to break up the monotony of being inside the home office, some associates have found comfort in working outside in local parks, the beach or even taking walks while attending a virtual meeting or following up with emails. An “office” now can consist of a laptop or mobile phone and an Internet connection.
These are all examples leading to the fact that the landscape of the 9 to 5 (work) has shifted over the past year. If you are like me, you are looking forward to the day when we get to the other side of COVID-19 but I am sure that some of the disruption encountered in the economy will have a lasting impact moving forward. But, like I mentioned previously, the next change is on the horizon but I am confident that we will be able to implement the needed revisions if we keep these in perspective.