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Bosses must trust employees more post-lockdown – new report

Remote workers should be trusted to get the job done rather than micro-managed or monitored by surveillance software, according to a new survey of HR leaders.

With fewer than a quarter of firms planning to return to the office at pre-pandemic levels, human resources executives said their organisations would rather trust their employees than track their computer mouse movements and website visits, the poll found.

Business consultancy firm The Culture Builders interviewed 150 HR leads from July to September, and the findings reveal the true impact of the pandemic and its influence on future ways of working, including the management of those working from home.

Published in the report Poly-working: the evolution of hybrid working, they include:

•    Some 50.3% of companies said they would give their employees greater autonomy and support

•    Trustworthiness (58%), empathy and supportiveness (57.6%) and resilience (52.3%) were the most important leadership qualities post-lockdown

•    Only 15.9% would consider surveillance technology, such as mouse monitoring software, to help manage the performance of a remote workforce

•    Only 23% plan to return their workforce to the office 100% at pre-pandemic levels

Chris Preston, co-founder and director of The Culture Builders, said: “With offices becoming semi-deserted on a permanent basis, weak, self-focused managers and leaders will really, really struggle.

“We are tempted to say new skills are needed, but that’s not actually true. What is needed are key attributes dialled up to eleven. There’s much debate on what these are, but for us it’s a short, simple list: empathy, trust, engagement and coaching. Any organisation focusing on upping these four with their leaders will not go far wrong.

“If you buy surveillance technology for your workforce, the cost will be the trust of your employee base. And once that’s spent, good luck getting it back.

“If you don’t trust your employees, you probably need to take a long hard look at your leadership style and cohort, not dash to the store and buy snooping software.”

Other findings in the survey include:

•    Despite the perception of many that the pandemic brought us all closer together, the pandemic actually weakened company culture for a significant proportion, particularly for companies with between 500 and 1,000 employees

•    Employee engagement, such as maintaining motivation and developing talent, was singled out as the biggest challenge for most organisations during the first phases of the outbreak

•    Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of workers was the most time-consuming for HR leads, but they now have a better understanding of how to manage it

•    As recently as last August, a significant proportion of organisations did not have a fully fledged plan for transition to new ways of working post-lockdown

The survey is one of the most up-to-date investigations into the way employers are now making the transition from working within enforced Covid-19 restrictions to post-lockdown operations. Its findings, says The Culture Builders, underline why forward-thinking leaders are now moving beyond the simple office vs homeworking model of hybrid working.

“New terminology is required to understand what’s happening,” said Preston. “Hybrid working is a two-dimensional phrase; you are in the office sometimes, and at home others.

“We are moving to a working landscape that’s so much more complex. It’s not about blending the two locations, it’s about creating approaches that enable individuals to construct a professional life that’s wrapped around them. We call it ‘poly’ because, quite simply, there will be many, many variations of a working pattern.”

The new report highlighted the flexibility offered to employees at Pfizer.

Emma Berry, senior director and global lead for communications and engagement at Pfizer, said: “We have a culture that puts colleague health and wellness first. We work extremely hard, but we’re empowered and trusted to get our work done in a time and way that suits us personally. My manager focuses on the outcome – not the hours I work! And of course, the reality is that when you empower and trust people, they give you more.”

The full report can be found here