Establishing the new norm: how Covid-19 has changed employers’ priorities

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Covid-19 has changed the narrative on a number of preconceived ideas long-held by employers. The pandemic has challenged business leaders in a way that hasn’t been seen before; for all of its negative knock-on effects, this strange time has also presented an opportunity to examine the concept of work in a new light.

What has been thrown into question isn’t simply where we all work from, i.e. home instead of the office, but also matters such as our work-life balance, well-being, and what working for a company really means for the employer and employee alike.

It’s no small challenge for leaders, most of whom may never have considered how they’d want the working day to look if they could redesign it from scratch.

Having debated this concept with various business leaders, it seems like certain things remain top of the priority list, no matter the external circumstances. These are:

  1. Work ethic
  2. Attitude toward work
  3. Professionalism
  4. Output and results
  5. Learning and development
  6. Customer service and support

So, what can change? Primarily, the concept of time spent. If all of the above is achieved (as well as anything else that may be on the agenda), does it matter how long it takes to deliver? Is there any difference in someone finishing their job by noon or by the end of the day? Is a 40-hour contract still relevant? Many would argue no.

In terms of business output, the key is that the employee and the employer are in sync about expectations and delivering them. The move to remote working has meant that the line between work and home has become very blurred. Parents, for example, have had to juggle homeschooling and caring for their children with their regular 9-5 work duties. This major shift has necessitated a much more flexible attitude towards the working day than most employers have ever considered before. It would be naïve for employers to think that all of their employees will be able to perfectly replicate the office environment at home. Instead of time spent, i.e. seeing all of your employees be in the office for the required hours, the focus should be shifted onto output. As long as they achieve what they’re expected to, how and when they do so should be up to the individual.

The crux of the issue here is having a contract of trust between the employer and employee. As remote working looks to be a long-term, if not permanent, fixture in our lives, this will become a cornerstone of how and who employers hire, as well as influencing their management styles.

Building a team culture that’s based on mutual dedication and trust, flexibility, and autonomy should be what every leader strives for. The pandemic’s disruption of our traditional work environment has presented an opportunity to create a new norm – one where these values are embedded into our mindset of what work means to us.

Of course how this is achieved is still a debate, as there are a number of other factors such as social interaction between colleagues, and team and company culture, that present a challenge.