Are You In The Silent Majority Who Wish To Return To The Office?
We have adjusted to Work from Home (WFH), now accustomed to some form of hybrid virtual work model that our organisations set out for us. But chances are, we would still prefer to go into the office. Why? To meet our peers, exchanging a smile or two, even a brief social chit chat all have their attractions.
Just when we thought WFH would be over, the Delta variant swept across the globe. This really tripped up many office returns worldwide. Remote work looks to be here to stay, and with it, the incessant blurring of work-life boundaries, often leading to employee isolation and burnout.
“While productivity may have gone up, many employees report feeling anxious and burned out,” noted a study by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Clearly, not every type of job or profession lends itself to this arrangement. Companies in customer-facing sectors still struggle to find a suitable hybrid work arrangement. COVID-19 forced many lifestyle venues to close, and essential services like airports or other public transport services now require more health protection measures.
“Negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback, and onboarding new employees are examples of activities that may lose some effectiveness when done remotely,” concluded the McKinsey study.
In Singapore, over two-thirds of professionals, managers, executives and technicians are already on hybrid or remote work arrangements. While WFH remains largely the default arrangement in Singapore — with government urging employers to continue to exercise flexibility in their employees' work arrangements — employees also want flexibility.
Many here, including those with young children, say that when the pandemic is over, they would like to work from home at least three days a week. But new hires, people who live in tight and noisy homes, and personalities who regard themselves as “social butterflies” generally prefer to go into the office “full-time”.
This means that not everyone is coping well.
Anxiety over work is often attributed to a sense of being disconnected from organisational goals or priorities. This kind of anxiety affects work performance, job satisfaction, often undermining trust, and interpersonal relations among colleagues. Those working remotely can also feel more acutely, over time, that the jobs that require in-person office presence led to a career advantage with faster promotions from better recognition of performance.
In the US, pandemic-era stress raised awareness on what some have called, "The Great Resignation." Over 4 million people in the US resigned from their jobs in April 2021 alone, with 74% of employees expressing at least some burnout in their current jobs. Growing dissatisfaction with work also led to a record-high number of unfilled positions, with many employers struggling to attract top talent.
Potential Project, a global research, leadership development and consulting firm, recently conducted an extensive study into these new trends. Over 2,000 people across junior through senior levels from several industries participated.
The survey results give an insight into how company leaders can improve employee productivity and satisfaction in their work environments today. Company engagement was shown to be the biggest deciding factor for employees evaluating whether to stay with their current employer.
There are two critical attributes that constitute a new model of leadership. First, there is wisdom, which is the courage to be transparent with others, and to do what needs to be done, even when it is uncomfortable. The second is the quality of compassion, which offers care and empathy for another person, combined with an intention to support and help.
When company leaders leveraged these qualities, burnout lessoned by 64%, while employee job satisfaction increased by 86% and job performance was raised by 20%.
"Today, more than ever before, employees are seeking jobs that provide both meaning and well-being,” said Rasmus Hougaard, CEO of Potential Project.
Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue, and with this, the silent revolution is taking place. Although employers are now more aware that some work-related meetings are better done in person, employees too must adjust their own expectations by taking in the fast-changing office landscape. Helpful mindsets and attitudes include sharpening one’s focus, engaging in mindful communication, optimising one’s coordination with the rest of the team, and being positive about flexibility and trust for good collaboration.
It is always good to start with ourselves when we wish to lead others — we cannot be truly compassionate with others when we are not kind to ourselves in the first place.
When we begin to practice wisdom, we do so with a self-awareness, to understand how we feel ourselves about hybrid work arrangements, acknowledge what works well for us (and what doesn’t), and have the courage to speak about these issues with our team mates or supervisors. There is no better way than this to sustain good performance, and to continue to value our individual contributions at work this way.
Potential Project Singapore and AIA Singapore are partnering to offer the Minding our Minds in the Hybrid Work Revolution program to help people manage change with resilience, and build healthy work habits and mindsets. Complimentary for all AIA Singapore Corporate Solutions customers and members. Details and registration: https://www.aia.com.sg/en/employee-benefits/building-mental-resilience.html
 “What employees are saying about the future of remote work,” McKinsey Global Institute, April 1, 2020.
 The Straits Times, 1 May 2021.
 Potential Project's study, entitled The Human Leader, was carried out in partnership with academic researchers at Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School, U.C. Berkeley, the University of Toronto, and the University of Amsterdam School of Business. The findings of the study will be published in a new book Compassionate Leadership: How to Do Hard Things in a Human Way, co-authored by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, Harvard Business Review Press, on 14 Dec 2021 and is now available for pre-order.