It’s time for leaders to get real about hybrid

Viewed in McKinsey & Company

We most definitely are in era where the idea of “reimagining things” has gained hold.

Reimagining

That includes, as this report by management consultant giant McKinsey contends, the way we work.

There is, as McKinsey documents, historical precedent for these evolutions of this nature.

“In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution moved many in Europe and the United States from fields to factories. In the 1940s, World War II brought women into the workforce (if not the C-Suite) at unprecedented rates.

In the 1990s, the explosion of PCs and email drove a rapid increase in productivity and the speed of decision making, ushering in the digital age as we know it today,” this McKinsey report documents.

And so we have reached 2020 and now 2021—and pressure is again mounting for another step in this seemingly endless evolution of where and how we work.

No desire to go back to the pre-pandemic office life

The pandemic has changed employee expectations. What do they want? Having largely worked remotely or at least partly remotely for a year and a half, they have no desire to go back to the pre-pandemic office life that once was the conventional norm.

Nearly three-quarters of these employees seek to work from home two or more days a week

The finding is supported by a McKinsey poll of 5,000 employees, which found that “nearly three-quarters” of these employees seek to work from home two or more days a week. What is driving this desire tor change?

Surprisingly, it isn’t the ease of actually working from home, which McKinsey reports “has driven fatigue, difficulty in disconnecting in work, deterioration of their social networks, and weakening of their sense of belonging.”

Better connecting with home and family

So what is driving the desire such change? “Pushed to shelter at home, many rediscovered a connection to their home and family in ways that changed them,” McKinsey reports.

Less job attachments

Complicating matters for employees even further is this fact: Simultaneous to their desire to substantially how and where they work, employees in the post-pandemic economy appear generally less attached to their jobs, running a risk of the next “great attrition,” representing mass departures in the labor pool as they seek opportunities more in line with their post-pandemic expectations.

Greater attrition

“Recent surveys found that 26 percent of workers in the United States are already preparing to look for new employment opportunities and 40 percent of workers globally are considering leaving their current employers by the end of the year,” the report finds.

Mammoth shifts needed from employers

Given these facts, how should employers be responding to these mammoth shifts in employee expectations? The precise answer to that question may not yet be entirely clear. But one thing is for sure: Denial of these realities is not an option.

Empathy

McKinsey sees two sensible steps as facts continue to unfold: First, express empathy with employees’ predicament and try to assess their mood on their work conditions periodically.

Flexibility and experimentation

Second, maintain some flexibility and don’t be afraid to experiment with various hybrid models of in-office and remote work; in such experimentation, companies may learn much and ultimately identify more definitive solutions to what appear to be employees’ unrest with pre-pandemic in-office work models in what looks poised to represent a fairly seismic shift in work trends.

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