Normal--what does that word even mean anymore? As the blogger for MoneyThumb, I'd like to share this quote from--of all people, Morticia Adams--who was the wife in the old TV series The Addams Family, which was later made into a very popular movie. "Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”
As a society at large, we haven't experienced anything close to normal since the early spring of 2020, when Covid-19 arrived on the scene and literally turned our worlds upside down. In our blog post today we are going to discuss the new normal when it comes to what is now being called "The Hybrid Age" and how this hybrid of working in an office and working from home affects accountants.
To start this discussion off, let's refer to a fantastic article from CPA Practice Advisor, one of our favorite peers. The article is titled Remote, Hybrid, or In-Office: The Future of Work Will Vary. This is a quote from that article every accountant should read, "According to a survey of more than 2,800 senior managers in the U.S., 71% of respondents said they will require their teams to be on-site full time once COVID-19-related restrictions completely lift. Far fewer will allow employees to follow a hybrid ..."
For accountants and other career professionals who have totally enjoyed the remote work situation brought on by Covid, the above comes as a low blow. Many professionals cannot even imagine going back to a life of 9-5 at an office, stuck at a desk. In fact, the CPA Practice Advisor article offers a strong warning to employers:
Workers May Walk
Employers should be aware of the risks of mandating a full return to the office: Previous research reveals nearly half of employees (49%) prefer a hybrid arrangement, and about 1 in 3 professionals (34%) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if required to be in the office five days a week. In addition, a separate survey finds 43% of workers feel much more productive when remote versus in the office.
"When it comes to hybrid work, there's a disconnect between what managers prefer and what employees expect," said Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald. "But in this talent-driven market, especially, companies need to prioritize their people and look to the future. Providing flexibility is a low-cost way to create a positive employee experience and inclusive workplace culture."
If employers are to retain their top talent, they need to be more open and flexible to allow those who want to work part of the time at home. There will be challenges of course, but keeping employees happy is how you keep them, period.
Hybrid Work Hurdles
Employers cited a variety of top challenges when managing hybrid teams, pointing to the complexities of supporting a dispersed workforce long-term:
- Communicating effectively with team members: 22%
- Trusting employees to get work done: 20%
- Gauging workloads and helping staff avoid burnout: 20%
- Effectively recognizing and rewarding employee accomplishments: 20%
- Finding time for team development: 19%
Another article from our pals at CPA Practice Advisor offers some solid tips for handling the rest of 2021 and beyond when it comes to our work situations and Covid. We have listed those tips below:
Prioritize safety and avoid controversy
The first step toward fruitful collaboration is ensuring that all team members feel comfortable. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have an entirely vaccinated staff who all feel okay about working in the office. Most workplaces aren’t so lucky, though. And if you try to force people with different views about health and safety to comply with a unilateral policy, you’re only going to cause resentment and foster antagonism. Your strategy needs to allow for the entirety of the team to feel secure, whether that means allowing everyone the option to work from home or only opening the office to those who are vaccinated or test negative for Covid.
Make time for small talk
With everyone’s calendar full of Zoom links, it’s obvious that we’ve figured out how to have meetings remotely. But what do those meetings look like? Does everyone arrive in time for a formal discussion and leave as soon as it's over? If so, you’re losing the benefits of casual conversation, which can sometimes generate powerful and important ideas. Try leaving 10 minutes at the end of the meeting for an unguided session of chit-chat. You may also want to leave open sessions for members of teams to get together if they want, creating a virtual water cooler of sorts, a place where people can freely collaborate without the pressure of a formal meeting.
Use asynchronous tools
Asynchronous collaboration means allowing collaborators to work on the same project at different times. A classic example is a relationship between writers and editors. In many working relationships, a writer submits a piece, an editor edits it, and it's then sent back to the writer. This process can happen in all sorts of team environments, especially in a world where we have the tools to share nearly everything over the cloud. Sometimes, everyone on a team will need to work on something simultaneously. But more often than not, giving folks the time and space to work on projects when it makes sense for them will yield better rewards. Users can ask questions via commenting features, share thoughts in suggestion mode, and brief their coworkers on what they’ve been up to. Allowing for a certain amount of asynchronous collaboration will also give team members the freedom to do their jobs in a way that makes sense for them.
Have leaders check-in individually
There are always going to be some workers who flourish less in a group setting, especially when that setting is part virtual. It’s a good idea for leadership to reach out to their team on a one-on-one basis to check in on everyone. These check-ins will make team members feel seen and heard, but they may also provide crucial feedback about improving your hybrid policies.
Maintain a flexible mindset
I probably don’t have to tell you at this point that everything regarding work policy is subject to change at a moment’s notice. Hybridity allows us to adapt quickly, but only if we’re willing to do so.