What does “normal” mean?
“ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected”–Cambridge Dictionary
September 2021 will be a pivotal month for a lot of American companies. That will be the next en masse work-location shift. Right now, companies are communicating their “where you can work” policies. Meanwhile, office workers have spent at least 15 months learning how to work differently — transforming from “normal”. So far, we are seeing financial institutions looking to “return to normal”. Tech companies like Google and Facebook have decided (at least for now) to accommodate more flexible arrangements for employees, creating a “new normal”.
With so much focus on “normal” (while we are clearly in unprecedented times), what should a leader do?
Do what is in your control
What is missing in the discussion is the role leaders play in our ability to navigate change. No matter what side of the work-location debate you are on, our job is the same –> lead through the change. How do you do that with so much uncertainty? Create a working environment centered around the employee experience. The world is going through a transformation, but we control whether we provide a work experience that fosters productivity — no matter where our employees work.
As a rule, we should continuously provide clarity for employees on these three things:
- What they do
- Do they understand their role?
- Have you prioritized professional development to build competency?
- Do they have clear directions?
- How they do it
- Do they have access to resources necessary to make decisions, problem-solve, and do their work?
- Can they work distraction-free (no interruptions, minimal meetings)?
- Do they have the freedom to plan, manage, and control their time?
- Expected Results
- Have you set clear goals and expected outcomes?
- Do you support risk-taking and failure?
- Do you reinforce effort and recognize results?
Many articles are debating the merits of in-office, hybrid, or remote work. It can be very distracting. COVID is still with us and will be for some time — the future of the way we work will continue to be uncertain, and we have to get the work done. Whether you are returning to the normal of January 2020 or evolving and leaning into a new normal, the job is to lead. The work experience is in our control. At the end of the day, people need to feel like their time is well spent and they are accomplishing goals. No matter where their desk is, clarity of purpose and clear expectations really matter. Good employees can figure it out and will be productive as long as they understand expectations.
Change is constant. Lead through it.
“Evolution — a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex or better state…” — Merriam-Webster
Need help leading through change? Let’s work together.