Publicis Sapient APAC MD Emma Scales: Jury still out on hybrid work state; enabling staff to disconnect from work is crucial for sustainability
We are yet to quantify the productivity impacts of hybrid work, says Emma Scales. For it to remain sustainable, staff must be enabled to disconnect from their work, so they can reconnect with their families. Imbalances around gender, share of voice, and ability to contribute also demands new operating mindsets from leaders.
“We are yet to quantify the productivity impacts of hybrid work… we need to make sure our staff are able to disconnect from their work, so they can reconnect with their families.”
The sustained crisis mode of Covid created significant stress and threat for every company, leader and team. In a typical crisis, demands and threats are presented and then resolved, allowing us to move on and recover. But in Covid, almost all companies, leaders and customers were pushed into a sustained threat state with little to no “control” — and for anyone trying to maintain control, an inevitable crash.
Personally, I’ve had three big realisations from my experience during Covid.
1. The jury is still out on this new hybrid state of work
For many years workplace consultants have spoken about the impending arrival of “work anywhere” and the evolution of the office. Over the past year, it finally happened.
There have been some big shifts, and we’re yet to really understand the lasting consequences. Our work-days have somehow gotten longer as we’ve extended ourselves to manage the complexities and difficulties created by Covid. The reduction in commuting has removed some of the mental separation between work and home.
Home schooling is a taxing endeavour, and parents who have had to manage both the continuation of their children’s education and the responsibilities of their job deserve recognition.
We are yet to quantify the productivity impacts of hybrid work. There are two factors that I believe we also need to strongly consider. Firstly, we need to make sure our staff are able to disconnect from their work, so they can reconnect with their families. Secondly, inequalities may emerge within these new working dynamics — particularly imbalances around gender, share of voice, and ability to contribute. Only by successfully accounting for these factors will we truly be able to determine what form of hybrid work is the best way forward.
“The hardship we collectively experienced and the closeness we developed after being virtually welcomed into each other’s homes for so long has the potential to return innumerate value as we emerge into a new normal.”
2. We must reframe what resilience means
The companies and leaders that have successfully navigated through Covid were the ones who recognised that the “threat” they faced at the macro level was not something they could control. Instead, they took the opportunity to challenge assumptions about what was possible and to accelerate their digital business transformation. Examples of this are the shift to complete remote working, 3x to 10x increase in eCommerce transactions, and the implementation of better cyber security to manage this new world.
For me, the key takeaway is that resilience is a personal choice as a leader to reframe your thinking. Those who failed to move on from their pre-Covid beliefs only hurt their bottom line and increased the risks to health. The companies that pivoted early, shifting resources, funds and energy into not controlling, but embracing the new ways of interacting with customers, employees and colleagues, fared much better.
In short, as a human we need to acknowledge the things we can’t control, and focus our energy on what we can influence. Leaders in particular need to open the frame to help their clients, customers and colleagues to see the possibilities even in times of stress, in order to continue to thrive. Connection is key
3. Embed Covid-style connecting as catalyst for new culture
Whether you were a banker, a retailer, or an essential worker, Covid underlined how we are all interconnected. Covid broke down the barriers between “home” and “work”. We all found ourselves sharing moments together that are not typically part of the corporate experience – home cooking, exercise classes, music jams. We met each other’s pets, partners and children as we broadcast from our living rooms, bedrooms and kitchen tables.
Across the industry, we pitched work to clients we had never met and shared ideas and experiences on virtual stages through countless webcasts and panels. Importantly, we also focused on the wellbeing and health of our staff like never before.
Together – all these experiences made us more human. I, and many leaders I know, felt the connections we had with our staff and teams get closer and richer. The hardship we collectively experienced and the closeness we developed after being virtually welcomed into each other’s homes for so long has the potential to return innumerate value as we emerge into a new normal. Our opportunity as leaders is to nurture that silver lining of Covid connection long enough for it to imprint on our culture – both as a business and as a community.
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