The shift to remote work significantly disrupted work as we knew it. But through the disruption, we found it's more than possible to keep the engines of a business humming without being in-person full time. What's missing for many though, is the supportive culture that in-person offices provide. From the Monday morning coffee chats to discussing the weekend's activities, to collaborative and energetic in-person meetings, remote work leaves much to be desired in terms of connection.
Enter hybrid work environments, which combine remote work with time in the office. Hybrid is becoming the primary mode of work for many organizations, giving employees the chance to define where they work and when.
As leaders everywhere face a massive decision on what the return-to-office will look like, employees have the chance to help shape this next phase of work, voicing their opinions and participating in the conversations defining the future of work.
Here are three simple ways you as an employee can tactfully manage up for the future of work, ultimately evoking empathy and connection which are the fundamental ingredients to a successful workplace that many are still missing today.
Be honest about your stressors
Nearly two-thirds of full-time workers deal with burnout at some point while at work. To put it bluntly, employees are overworked and overwhelmed. And these stressors can negatively impact the quality of work, fatigue in and out of the office, and, unfortunately, even serious health problems in the long run.
Take stock of what triggers your stress. This year has been challenging on so many levels across our personal and professional lives. We have more empathy for one another than ever before—from working mothers on Zoom with their newborns to offering time off for COVID support—but even with increased empathy, stress can overcome even the strongest among us. So, grab a pen and paper and write down your stressors. From there, consider how your employer could help lessen the burden.
Think like an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs see something missing or a problem at hand and pioneer a path forward to solve that. They lean in to reimagine what's possible and rethink how things can be done even when it might not be favored by all. Think of today's workplace, which leaves a lot to be desired. In large organizations especially, leaders often struggle to manage teams effectively, and the technology intended to alleviate workloads primarily checks boxes rather than being human-aware.
The truth is, employers have long been trying to make jobs better and continue to fall short. So, I invite you to manage up and think like an entrepreneur to make your job better, whether that be by introducing more human-aware technology, streamlining an outdated process, or voicing a new idea. Adopting this entrepreneurial mindset will allow you to take charge and ultimately lead to better outcomes and better experiences in the future.
Don't accept business as usual
The way we work has fundamentally shifted and it isn't going to go back to "normal." Less than one in five executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. While that can be a hard pill to swallow, now is the time to rewrite what lies ahead.
Could your organization introduce technology that works in symbiosis with employees? Are there tools to elevate remote work and enable a more collaborative future? What do you miss most about pre-pandemic work that should be reintroduced or reimagined? Whether it's technology, culture, or processes, now is not the time to accept business as usual. Speak up about what should shape and be part of the future of the organization you are part of.
As the critical workplace shift continues despite much uncertainty, what's clear is that leaders and employees must come together to build what's next. Trust your leaders to do what's in your best interest, but don't shy away from speaking up and advocating for yourself amid the transition.
Think of creative solutions to make the hybrid workplace a successful one like hiring a workplace engagement specialist to help foster deeper connections across the disparate workforce. Take this time of rewriting work as an opportunity to root yourself and challenge others to lead with empathy.
Empathy has the power to move ideas and organizations forward through human connection. It is the most impactful way to build trust, respect, and loyalty and it will make a world of difference as we build the future of work.
Joshua Feast is the CEO and cofounder of Cogito .
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