One year on from national pandemic lockdowns and the shift into remote work, many employers and employees alike are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time.
According to the Labour Department, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone in the US. In normal times, this would signal a healthy economy with plentiful jobs. However as the pandemic instigates one of the largest recessions in history, the causes this time around seem to be far from normal. With motives varying from fears around returning to work due to health and safety, to seeking greater pay, flexibility and wellbeing, there’s no denying that the pandemic has given us an opportunity to reconsider workplace practices, values and meaning.
While many leading businesses have taken to the task at hand by altering the expectations of the office, employees too are starting to restructure their lives in better alignment with their hearts and minds. The great migration to remote work in the pandemic has had a profound impact on how people think about when and where they want to work. For many, it was the first time in years that they stepped to the side of their 60 hour work weeks and glimpsed an alternate reality filled with more time for family or alternate activities.
Work is no longer being seen as limited to paying the bills, with perceptions shifting to appreciate the need for work to accommodate life. This presents a unique opportunity to understand the nature of work itself, to improve remote support for a range of work practices, and to use what we have learned through remote work to improve in-office and hybrid practices.
The Hybrid Mind
While there were many benefits to the world of remote work, others experienced negative impacts on physical, social and emotional health. One survey found that some of those hit hardest were mothers, those 40+, people with pre-existing mental health struggles and those with a household income lower than $50k. The biggest social concerns were around society, community and loved ones, followed by finances and career.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been its ability to bring people together, while remaining socially distant. United by a common enemy, the lockdown saw volunteers signing up in droves, by delivering supplies to the vulnerable and assisting in the local community. The mass exodus from large cities helped by the new-found freedom in workplace location and choice has also helped to regenerate those very communities more locally.
This encapsulates the spread of integration being seen across the board, as polarities merge and foster better alignment. Individual and collective needs are coming together to create a hybrid workplace that promises productivity and growth, without compromising on employee autonomy and wellbeing.
Move To Meaning
The way we work is clearly changing, but so are the reasons why. It’s increasingly being recognised that the Friedman model of capitalism alongside its depiction of the rational ‘Homo Economicus’ driven by a selfish gene is outdated and reductionist. A new paradigm acknowledges the emergent properties of a systems component parts. It signifies that man is by nature collaborative and co-operative in the right environment, and when viewed under the multilevel, multidimensional lens adopted by a multi-disciplinary approach.
As the environment shifts into a state more conducive to harnessing these innate sentiments, people’s natural internal motivators are being leveraged to drive more meaning and purpose at work. Nowhere is that more clear cut than amongst the ranks of the B Corporation network - contractually committed to bettering both people and planet alongside profit.
Factors such as being able to move out of expensive cities into greener, neighbouring areas with lower overheads have contributed to the mindset shift from quantity to quality. In a new normal where health is wealth, fulfilment is taking centre stage, and the effects are rippling out not just into the economic sphere, but also the social, mental and environmental.
It’s frequently reported that the second silent pandemic could well be the impending effects of a mental health crisis in a post-COVID world. Modern healthcare has for a long time now been ill-equipped to deal with the volume and sustainable treatment of such conditions, with psychiatry being described as relatively speaking, still in the ‘dark ages’.
However when it comes to administering preventive lifestyle factors that could halt the need to bandage the acute, the current transformation of work and home lifestyle adjustments is looking promising for buffering the tide. Given that most of us will spend most of our lives at work, the increased flexibility in hours, location and value is a welcome one.
Employees are quickly realising that there is no point in perks such as free healthcare coverage when the role they’re assigned to instigates its need within just a few months. The overall sentiment appears to be one of balance. On an individual level this is seen as evening out the distribution of time spent living and working, occasionally blurring the boundaries between work and play; for businesses the balance is one of chasing corporate goals without ignoring the very members and environment that it impacts; and in the wider playing field, the move towards a more conscious form of consumerism has the potential to transform our systems into more sustainable and regenerative models.
While the present may be difficult for many still facing difficulties and losses, the future therefore, looks bright. Progressive businesses are at the forefront of the change, creating the very environments conducive for such alchemy to take place.
Harnessing the hybrid workplace is key to developing the hybrid mindset shift, leading us all into a more holistic, integrated and sustainable future.
Find out more about X AND WHY flexible workspaces here.