Get set for change: What work-life balance will look like in the new normal
“Who are you speaking to, Mom? Can I say hi?” A colleague’s son pops his head in while we are on a video call – he wants to say hello to whoever his mom is speaking with.
“Give me 2 minutes. I need to change rooms.” Both parents are working and figuring out who will use which room at home for the conference calls.
“I want the headphone. My online school classes are starting in 5 minutes.” Another colleague hands over the headphone to his ten-year-old to attend online school classes.
“Stepping out for 5 minutes. Need to collect the groceries that have just been delivered," says a colleague and excuses herself to collect a delivery from the gate of her apartment building complex.
“I need to find my rhythm. I have accepted so many calls that I didn’t get a chance to grab lunch or respond to emails," says a friend, while trying to adjust to working from home.
Back to office?
Employees will continue to work from home and return to the office only in phases
These are typical scenarios we have seen in the last few months with the advent of the new normal of ‘working from home’.
Some companies have announced permanent work from home for their employees; others are figuring out which roles can be delivered through complete remote working without adverse impact on productivity and many are preparing their organisations and teams for a staggered return to office.
In my view, the new normal will be about work life integration more than work life balance. When we think of work life balance, we think of two opposing forces at play in conflict with each other. We think tradeoffs. We think boundaries. While integration, on the other hand, is about synergies and harmonisation.
In the last few months, both organisations and individuals have learned something new about themselves and hopefully some of these lessons will stay with us in times to come.
Some of us may have discovered that we work best if we start early and finish early. Some of us may prefer to take a couple of hours off during the day and then log in again at night.
For those of us who have hitherto compartmentalised work and life into two separate categories that need to stay separate would have struggled to adjust.
Reflecting on the last few months; what we have learned, what we struggled with will help us have candid conversations with our managers and organisations about our unique needs.
Manages will need to train their employees about the new systems at work
Work life integration will be an organisation-wide issue and managers will need to initiate conversations and listen without assumptions. In this new normal, trust and empathy will be two cornerstones of how we lead – especially when we are leading remote teams from a distance.
Managers play a critical role in the success of any flexible working arrangement. And this could mean the need to make some mindset shifts: face time will no longer be the criteria for productivity and micro managers may finally need to let go!
For our team members who struggle, we will need to train them to avoid burnout and help them focus on their physical and emotional well-being.
Customise work arrangements
Flexibility and personalisation will become a key ask on the part of employees. Hence, more and more organisations will need to customise work arrangements around individuals’ unique needs. It should get done without prejudice and assumptions and without being perceived as a privilege. And this will also help them attract a more diverse and hitherto untapped workforce.
Social distancing norms will be implemented in offices
These new working arrangements will need to be supported with skill building for managers on how to lead remote teams; how to build resilience and deal with uncertainty.
For instance, at the Prione Group, we launched a programme called LEAP (Learning, Engaging, Adapting, and Practicing) which helps employees learn from each other’s experiences, reconnect with fellow employees they have lost touch with, adapt to the new working environment and practice the same in their everyday lives.
Get ready for change
Change is here - whether we like it or not, whether we are comfortable or not and whether we are ready or not. The good news however is that organisations, leaders, managers and employees will all have an opportunity to evaluate processes and practices that exist because of legacy and not out of value or necessity. And integration between work and life is what we will need more than ever before.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)