Recent research has shown that there is an increasing squeeze on managers as we exit the pandemic. On the one hand leadership teams are pressing for employees to return to the office full time, while employees want to continue the working from home regime. Add to that, a hot jobs market where people can easily find another position, and it puts managers in a difficult position. How to satisfy both?
Some of the problems are deep seated as people have changed their personal circumstances during the last two years. Some have moved out of the city to more rural locations and now find it difficult, expensive or time consuming to commute. Others have adapted their lives around school runs and other family demands and now find it difficult to switch back. The result? A huge resistance to going back to the office and while the job market is buoyant, an attitude of “why should I?”. Leaders on the other hand are concerned their teams are becoming isolated and disconnected, missing the spontaneity of being around colleagues.
Flexible working certainly helps with work life balance and meeting family commitments but what about mental wellbeing? Humans are essentially social animals, we spark off each other, we need contact with other people. Working from home can be a very lonely existence and this can have an impact, so it’s a difficult situation for managers. There are societal and financial benefits from not having to commute to the office, but people lose something too. They lose the close bonds with colleagues, and for the manager, that makes them less sticky and more likely to leave for another job as there’s not a such a strong feeling of belonging.
It may turn out that these trends are part of the post pandemic moment and that things will eventually return to the pre-pandemic ways of working, particularly if rising inflation leads to a tighter jobs market. However, in the meantime, how do managers navigate the current choppy waters to keep both employees and leadership happy?
With managers trying to meet these conflicting demands Its leading some to suggest a hybrid model of a few days in the office and few days at home as the answer, but is this the best or the worst of both worlds? It risks not satisfying either side. On the one hand only doing the school run two days a week may not help and commuting three days a week may not be cost effective. Conversely, time in the office will not help if it’s not managed. Are teams all in at the same time, for example, and what sort of work are they engaged in during this time? The hybrid model may not work for anybody.
Above all, people need routine, so they can plan their lives around work and other commitments and while flexible working is good for some, it’s not a one size fits all. What does all this mean for managers? They are going to find themselves increasingly squeezed in the middle and will be pressured to come up with creative solutions to try to keep everybody happy. But there is no easy answer, so managers are likely going to become increasingly stressed!