By Barb Ward

The pandemic reshaped the way work is approached, creating new expectations that emphasize flexibility, technology, and greater consideration for employee well-being. In truth, the future of work was already changing and shifting, but the pandemic accelerated these shifts and ultimately changed everything; from the way people do the work, to the work people are willing to do, to the geography of where they can and are willing to work. For some, these changes have been highly unsettling; for others, change has illuminated new opportunities. For all—the organization, the leader, the team, and the individual—the implications are much deeper and multi-faceted than originally anticipated. 

As leaders, managing the expectations of staff who work in these environments can be the most challenging part of our new workforce realities. While offering many wonderful benefits for staff members, all of the secondary issues can overshadow and seem overwhelming and endless.

Now, as they evaluate the future of work, leaders must consider a multitude of new criteria, including:

  • Working from home vs. working in the office, and the complexities of managing the hybrid of both
  • Compensation or other equity for employees who do not have the option to work from home
  • Facility needs – dedicated space vs. common space for a shrinking in-office workforce
  • Required in-office time for teams to meet face-to-face vs. teams working independently
  • Policies around flexible hours
  • Maintaining the organization’s values and culture amid the changing workforce
  • IT and digital strategies to meet both employees’ and consumers’ changing needs

Indeed, leaders have had to rethink every decision they’ve traditionally made to keep their workforce engaged and happy. While it may seem that this is just too much to deal with and perhaps, we should revert back to a simpler time, the reality is that there is no going back. So, let’s look at the benefits these new options offer employees, and then tackle some strategies leaders can use to make managing employees’ expectations a little easier.

First, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a hybrid workforce:

Perceptions of working from home can vary widely depending on individual preferences, job roles, and personal circumstances. Here are some positive and negative perceptions associated with working from home:

Positive Perceptions:

  •  A flexible work schedule gives people the autonomy to set up a work schedule and customized work environment that is most comfortable and productive for them.
  • Eliminating commuting saves time and reduces stress associated with traffic and transportation.
  • Reduced expenses related to commuting, transportation, gas, parking permits, work attire, and meals.
  • Fewer distractions and interruptions can lead to more focused and productive work hours.
  • Health and well-being may improve by reducing workplace stress and promoting a more balanced lifestyle.

Negative Perceptions:

  • Working from home can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social interaction with colleagues.
  • Working from home can lead to overworking and burnout, as it can be challenging to disconnect from work when the physical separation of the office is absent.
  • Remote work may lead to communication issues, including misinterpretation of messages, lack of spontaneous interactions, and response time delays.
  • Home environments can come with their own set of distractions, such as household chores, family members, or noisy neighbors, which may affect productivity.
  • Technical difficulties and unreliable internet connections can hinder productivity and create frustration for remote workers.
  • Collaborative activities that require face-to-face interactions, such as brainstorming sessions or team-building exercises may suffer in a remote work setup.
  • Some employees feel that working remotely can limit their visibility within the organization and hinder career advancement.

It’s important to recognize that the perceptions of working from home can change over time and can be influenced by individual preferences, job roles, and the overall company culture. Some people thrive in a remote work environment, while others prefer a more traditional office setup. Many organizations are adopting hybrid work models that combine the benefits of both remote and in-office work to accommodate a diverse range of preferences and needs.

As leaders work to understand this new environment and how to manage it, it’s important to address the issue of “how work is getting done.” Because the home environment is not a direct management model, it requires relationships of trust and a shift to manage metrics instead of hours. Managing metrics evaluates employee performance based on the results and achievements they deliver rather than the number of hours they spend working. This approach offers several benefits for both employees and organizations:

  • Focus on Results: Managing by metrics shifts the emphasis from hours worked to the actual outcomes and results achieved. This can lead to a more goal-oriented and productive work culture, where employees are motivated to accomplish meaningful tasks and meet objectives.
  • Increased Flexibility: Employees have the freedom to manage their own schedules and work at times when they are most productive. This flexibility can enhance work-life balance and accommodate different working styles and preferences.
  • Empowerment and Ownership: When employees are measured by their contributions and accomplishments, they often feel more empowered and take greater ownership of their work.
  • Quality Over Quantity: This approach encourages employees to prioritize quality work over simply clocking in hours. They are encouraged to produce high-quality results, which can lead to better overall performance and customer satisfaction.
  • Enhanced Creativity and Problem-Solving: When employees are not confined to a fixed schedule, they can allocate time for creative thinking, brainstorming, and problem-solving. This can result in more innovative solutions and ideas.
  • Better Work-Life Integration: Managing metrics allows employees to align their work with their personal lives more effectively. They can attend to personal commitments without worrying about adhering strictly to traditional working hours.
  • Improved Employee Engagement: Employees who see the direct impact of their work and contributions are more likely to feel engaged and connected to their roles. This can lead to higher job satisfaction and morale.
  • Customized Performance Metrics: Organizations can tailor performance metrics to align with their specific goals and objectives. This ensures that employees are evaluated on factors that truly matter to the company’s success.
  • Transparent Evaluation: Managing metrics fosters transparency in evaluating employee performance. Clear, objective criteria are used to assess contributions, which can reduce biases and subjective judgments.
  • Cost Efficiency: By focusing on results, organizations can optimize resource allocation and ensure that efforts are directed toward tasks that have the greatest impact on achieving strategic goals.

Like any new process, leaders will need to adjust and refine parameters that will work for their individual teams. What works for one organization or industry may not work equally for another, so it is essential to strike a balance. You may find that you need a combination of outcome-based assessment with some level of structure, communication, and collaboration. Additionally, setting appropriate and fair metrics is crucial to ensure that employees are not overly stressed or pressured to achieve unrealistic targets. Setting up a metrics-based workforce involves establishing clear performance indicators, tracking relevant data, and using those metrics to inform decision-making and improvements.

Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Define Clear Objectives: Identify key objectives and goals for your organization. These objectives will guide the metrics you choose to track.
  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): KPIs should align with your objectives and be quantifiable measures that reflect the success of your workforce’s efforts.
  • Align Metrics with Roles: Different roles within your organization will have different responsibilities and contributions. Identify which metrics are relevant to each role.
  • Consider Data Collection Systems: Invest in tools and systems that allow you to collect and analyze relevant data. This may include project management software, CRM systems, time-tracking tools, and communication platforms. Automation can help streamline data collection.
  • Define Performance Parameters: Determine what represents success or acceptable performance for each metric. Set thresholds that indicate when performance is meeting, exceeding, or falling short of expectations.
  • Communicate: Clearly communicate the metrics and their significance to your workforce. Employees need to understand how their performance is being measured and why these metrics matter to the organization’s success.
  • Provide Training and Support: Ensure that employees understand how to collect and report data accurately. Offer training if necessary and provide ongoing support to address any challenges that surface.
  • Track and Analyze Regularly: Identify trends, patterns, and areas of improvement. Use this data to make informed decisions about resource allocation, process improvements, and goal setting.
  • Feedback and Recognition: Recognize and reward those who consistently meet or exceed performance expectations and provide constructive feedback to those who need improvement.
  • Continuous Improvement: Frequently review and refine your chosen metrics, ensuring they remain aligned with your organization’s objectives and evolving needs.
  • Transparent Communication: Maintain transparency about the purpose and use of metrics within your organization. Encourage open discussions about the metrics and their impact on the workforce.

As you move forward, remember that metrics are tools to drive improvement and should be used in conjunction with other criteria to measure performance. They also need to remain somewhat flexible so you can adjust and refine them as your organization’s goals and strategies evolve.

Identifying the policies and systems that will work for your organizations, teams, and leaders takes a lot of thought and work, but ultimately, taking the time to do so will benefit your employees and your organization in the long term. If you find that you would benefit from an impartial perspective, we would love to help. We are an organizational effectiveness consulting company that helps clients walk through business issues every day. We will come alongside you to provide tools and resources to help identify and solve your most difficult organizational and leadership challenges. Contact us for a free consultation at admin@InnovativeConnectionsInc.com or call us at 970-279-3330.

Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.

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