Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

Establish Better Norms to Succeed in the ‘New Normal’

Over the last few months, work as we know it has drastically changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s the physical location where employees work, the challenges these workers are overcoming to meet demands, or the attitudes workers now have, one thing is certain: “Normal” is now a term that describes the past. 

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Source: Ronnie Chua / Shutterstock

Workers and leaders are calling for permanent changes in how and where we work, and workplace relationships and future skills are now in jeopardy, according to new research from The Adecco Group.

The report “Resetting Normal: Defining the New Era of Work” examines the expected short- and long-term impact of the pandemic on resetting workplace norms. Fieldwork was conducted in May 2020, with 8,000 office-based respondents (aged 18–60) across Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Key findings from the report are highlighted below.

Hybrid Work Model Will Emerge

According to “Resetting Normal,” the working world is ready for a new “hybrid” model, with three-quarters (74%) of workers saying a mix of office-based and remote working is the best way forward. The universal ideal of spending half (51%) their time in the office and half working remotely (49%) transcends geographies, generations, and parental status. And company executives agree, with almost 8 in 10 (77%) C-suite leaders saying businesses will benefit from increased flexibility.

Another stark finding could signal the end of the hours-based contract and 40-hour week. More than two-thirds (69%) of workers are in favor of “results-driven work,” whereby contracts are based on delivering against business needs rather than working a set number of hours. A high proportion of C-suite executives (74%) agree that the length of the working week should be revisited.

New Skills Will Emerge

The pandemic has also demanded a new set of leadership competencies, and these expectations are projected to accelerate a reinvention of the modern-day leader. Emotional intelligence (EQ) has clearly emerged as the defining trait of today’s successful manager, but the soft skills gap is evident.

Over a quarter (28%) of respondents say their mental well-being has worsened due to the pandemic, with only 1 in 10 rating their managers highly on their ability to support their emotional health.   

In a similar nature to flexible working, the findings demonstrate a universal appetite for mass upskilling. Six in 10 say their digital skills have improved during lockdown, while a further two-thirds (69%) are looking for further digital upskilling in the post-pandemic era.

A broad range of skills development was identified as important by the workforce, including:

  • Managing staff remotely (65%),
  • Soft skills (63%), and
  • Creative thinking (55%).

“The world of work will never return to the ‘normal’ we knew before the pandemic struck. The sudden and dramatic change in the workplace landscape has accelerated emerging trends such as flexible working, high-EQ leadership, and re-skilling, to the point where they are now fundamental to organisational success,” says Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group, in a press release. In addition to these new skills, there’s something else that is vital for success: trust.

Trust Is Crucial for Success

Adecco’s findings highlight the importance of sustaining trust in the new working world. According to other research released by Zenefits earlier this year, one in five employees do not trust their HR teams, and over 30% say they avoid going to HR at all for problems. Yet, according to Adecco, companies have risen to the challenge of supporting their people during the crisis, and as a result, trust in corporations has increased.

In fact, 88% say their employer met or exceeded their expectations in adapting to the challenges of the pandemic. And with this increased trust comes increased expectations. While the future of work is a collective responsibility, 80% of employees believe their employer is responsible for ensuring a better working world post-COVID and resetting norms, compared with 73% who say the government is responsible, 72% who agree it is an individual responsibility, and 63% who believe it is in the hands of labor unions.

“As many countries emerge from the acute crisis phase of the pandemic, employers have an opportunity to ‘hit reset’ on traditional workplace practices—many of which have remained largely unchanged since the industrial revolution,” Dehaze adds. “This research highlights that employee attitudes have shifted and gaps between workforce expectations and entrenched labour market processes have been exposed.”

Dehaze concludes, “As we step into the new era of work, now is the time to establish better norms that will enable a holistically healthy, productive and inclusive workforce into the future.”

For more information on the “Resetting Normal: Defining the New Era of Work” report, click here.