他们花了一年多时间来适应全然不同的节奏——无论是工作还是生活节奏，都是如此。他们调整了工作时间，并学会在无人监督的情况下完成自己的任务。他们也许更看重与家人相处的时光，或是更重视自己的需求，可能还会因为失去了某个亲人或是担心健康问题而变得完全不同。独自工作一年后，许多人对于今后的工作方式、工作时间以及工作地点都希望拥有更大的掌控权，同时也希望从上级和公司手中获得更多“自主权”。 6park.com他们甚至会觉得，没必要再对他们进行太多管理。“员工正在他们的工作中担起更多的管理职责。”英国伯明翰大学(University of Birmingham)讲师霍利·伯基特(Holly Birkett)谈到，“他们也许拿不到更多的报酬，但他们的工作责任感更强了。”伯基特同时还是伯明翰大学“平等育儿项目”(Equal Parenting Project)的主管之一，该项目在新冠疫情期间对管理人员和员工开展过调查。 6park.com所有这些变化汇集起来，对管理人员提出了不小的挑战。他们需要重新思考，当团队成员回到办公室后，如何才能有效地对他们进行指导和管理。员工们看上去或许还和以前一样，但不可否认的是，对许多员工来说，这只是一种假象。
为此，他们不应根据员工在疫情前的工作能力来判断他们现在的工作能力，因为员工有可能在居家办公这段时间掌握了新的技能。也许一名资历较浅的员工学会了在截止时间之前自己安排任务进度，而无需老板操心；也许一位傲慢冷漠的销售代表在打了几个月的长途电话、抑或是出于对疫情的担忧而变得谦逊后，一改以往电话中的形象，变得魅力十足。 6park.com因此，最好是把他们当作新员工来对待，问问他们回到办公室的感受、未来数月或是今后几年他们有何期待，以及对于如何平衡家庭与工作，他们有何想法。 6park.com管理者或许可以考虑把员工重返办公室的前三到六个月视为一段“试用期”——这样做并不是为了解聘某些员工，而是为了利用这段时间来评估员工有哪些进步或是变化，同时也可以对自身管理技巧做出调整。
“过去一直在家办公的人可能很满意曾经那种自主的状态。”新西兰梅西大学(Massey University)管理学院技术管理教授大卫·鲍林(David Pauleen)指出，“如果有一天，管理人员突然收回以往的信任，不再相信员工有能力在更自由的状态下完成工作，有些员工可能会大为不满。 ”鲍林曾研究过拥有高度自主权的远程办公人员的工作模式。
除了在工作方式上拥有更多自主权之外，过去一年中，许多员工对于工作时间也有了更大的掌控。新南威尔士大学(University of New South Wales)商学院荣誉访问研究员梅雷亚德·奥康纳(Mairead O’Connor)表示，她的研究发现，新冠疫情期间，“管理人员注意到，员工们平时并没有按照标准的工作时间按时按点工作。事实上，工作日期间，他们每天下午五点以前的工作时间要少一些，但到了晚上和周末，他们的工作时间会大量增加。” 6park.com许多员工都不会轻易放弃这种灵活性。奥康纳博士建议，管理人员不妨规定一段“核心时间”，在此期间，团队或是项目中的每一位员工都必须在线或待在办公室里，而余下时间里，他们则可以自行安排工作计划。 6park.com对于习惯了按朝九晚五的方式来查看团队工作情况的管理者而言，这意味着监督方式的重大转变：他们应该根据任务进度，并结合共同制定的目标，以此实施管理，而不应只盯着员工每天在办公桌前待了多长时间。 6park.com但这并不是说完全不需要监督了。中佛罗里达大学(University of Central Florida)肯尼斯·G·迪克森会计学院(Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting)的会计学教授金·凯利(Khim Kelly)发现，新冠疫情期间，对提高工作效率作用最为明显的监督机制恰恰是那些“用力”最小的机制，包括最大程度地减少线下会议以及第三方或是同事之间的评估。取而代之的，是那些虽然效果不佳、但却更适合远程办公的监督途径，如召开网络会议、发送电子邮件和记录工作日志。凯利称，正因为这样，“管理者仍需同员工保持面对面的接触，同时还要参考一系列可以反映员工表现的数据。”
假如管理者感到紧张，不敢让办公室里的员工拥有远程办公时期的自主权，他们应该想一想自己在疫情期间观察到的情况。实际上那时，员工的工作效率反而更高。“平等育儿项目”的另一名主管萨拉·福布斯(Sarah Forbes)谈到，“与管理人员所想的不同，大部分员工都担得起这份信任，可以采取灵活的工作方式，而且效率还要更高。”她指出，退后一步看，“管理人员看到了更好的效果。” 6park.com
在员工眼中，会议也是同事间进行日常交流的地方，对于这种观念，他们已经习以为常。伯基特博士指出，疫情期间，管理人员把“团队会议和团队成员之间的交流作为了一种提升员工福祉的工具，以此对他们提供支持，而不仅仅是出于业务方面的原因才开会。”管理者应延续这一做法，尤其是考虑到过去一年团队成员分开办公的经历，他们之间的感情和信任度或许已不如以往。 6park.com凯利博士还建议管理者“为员工创造机会，让他们能够重新在同一个地方办公。” 6park.com安排共同的时间表是办法之一，但管理人员还可以做得更多，他们可以趁团队成员都在办公室的那几天，促成他们之间进行最大程度的交流。举例来说，如果在疫情前的企业文化中，员工在休息室闲聊太久会遭人白眼，那么现在，管理人员就可以明确为这种行为“正名”。 6park.com当然，鼓励社交与强制社交并不是一回事。过去一年中，性格内向者找回了自由，他们终于不用再硬着头皮难受地与人交往，而对性格外向者来说，他们也有了机会与同事参加工作以外的各种活动，加深彼此的友情。不要想象着让一切回到从前，管理者应该意识到，在有些员工看来，回到办公室就好像与朋友们久别重逢，而在另一些人看来，他们回去只是为了上班而已。 6park.com作为一名管理者，认识到不同员工有不同需求始终都是最重要、同时也是最难做到的。而在接下来的几个月中，这一点将体现得尤为明显。经历了疫情之年，员工们已变得和以往不同，至于有何变化，则因人而异。最优秀的管理者不仅能意识到这一点，还能将其为我所用。
They have spent over a year adjusting to a radically different rhythm—both in terms of work and their personal lives. They have shifted their working hours, and learned to manage their own tasks without oversight. They may place more value on their family time or personal priorities, and perhaps been forever changed by a loss or health concerns. After a year of working in solitude, many have come to expect more control over how, when and where their work gets done, and to have greater autonomy relative to their managers and organizations. 6park.comThey may not even feel like they need a whole lot of managing anymore. “Employees are taking on more of the managerial responsibility for their work,” says Holly Birkett, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in Britain and co-director at the university’s Equal Parenting Project, which surveyed managers and employees during Covid. “They are probably not getting paid any more, but they are feeling more responsibility for getting things done.” 6park.comAll these changes add up to a challenge for managers, who will need to think differently about how to mentor and coach their team members effectively as they return to the office. Their employees might look like the same people. But rest assured, many aren’t.
The employees who return to the office after a year of remote work aren’t the employees their bosses remember. 6park.com
Start from scratch
To that end, they shouldn’t assume what their employees can or can’t do based on what they could or couldn’t do before the pandemic, since they may have acquired new capacities while working from home. Perhaps a junior employee has learned to identify her own tasks and deadlines without the boss laying them out for her; perhaps an arrogant and standoffish sales representative has developed a newly charming phone persona after months of relating long distance or being humbled by pandemic fears. 6park.comAs a result, it’s best to think about them as fresh hires, asking them how it feels to be back, what they look forward to accomplishing in the months or years ahead, and how they hope to combine home and office time. 6park.comManagers might think about treating the initial three to six months after the office reopens as something like a probationary period—not with an eye to firing people, but as a way to assess how employees have grown or changed, and how their own management tactics need to evolve in return.
For starters, bosses should consider renewing their relationship with every single employee—even those they’ve managed for years—as if they are starting from scratch. 6park.com
Taste of independence
“There is a good chance that those who have been working from home have come to appreciate the autonomy they have gained,” says David Pauleen, a professor in technology management at the School of Management at Massey University in New Zealand, who has studied the work patterns of highly autonomous remote workers. “Some employees might bristle if this management trust in employee capabilities to work more autonomously suddenly ceased.” 6park.comBosses who are nervous about allowing in-office employees the same kind of autonomy they enjoyed at home should pause and remember what they observed during the pandemic. That is, more productive workers. Sarah Forbes, co-director of the Equal Parenting Project, says that “against managers’ expectations, the majority of employees can be trusted to work flexibly, and employees are more productive.” By stepping back, she says, “managers were getting better results.” 6park.comAlong with acquiring more autonomy over how their work gets done, the past year saw many employees get more control over when their work gets done. Mairead O’Connor, an honorary visiting research fellow at the University of New South Wales Business School, says her research found that during Covid, “management noticed that their workers sought nonstandard work time during the day. It turned out they spent less hours a day working [on weekdays] before 5 p.m., but there was a dramatic increase in the evening and weekends.” 6park.comMany employees aren’t going to give up that flexibility easily. Dr. O’Connor recommends that bosses establish core hours during which every worker on a team or project must be online or in the office—and then give employees the flexibility to manage the rest of their schedule. 6park.comFor managers who are used to tracking their team’s efforts based on a 9-to-5 schedule, this will require a profound shift: managing team members based on progress toward agreed-upon objectives, rather than the number of hours they spend sitting at their desk. 6park.comBut that doesn’t mean withdrawing supervision. Khim Kelly, a professor of accounting at the University of Central Florida’s Kenneth G. Dixon School of Accounting, found that during Covid, the supervisory mechanisms that are most beneficial to productivity were also the ones that decreased most, including face-to-face meetings and co-worker or third-party evaluations. They were replaced by less effective (but more “remote friendly”) approaches, such as online meetings, email and work logs. For that reason, she says, “managers still need to maintain face-to-face touch points with their employees, as well as reliance on a broader set of data points about an employee’s performance.”
Probably the biggest change for managers is that many of their direct reports will have acquired a taste for independence, and a lot less managerial oversight. It isn’t easy to go from a year of freedom to being under the boss’s thumb. 6park.com
Meetings and socializing
Employees aren’t going to take kindly to going back to the same old same old. The idea that employees should be available to meet anytime between 9 and 5, five days a week, is an outdated way of thinking; so is the idea that employees are cloistered at home, ready to take a call at any time. In the hybrid workplace, employees should be able to keep meetings to the days that they are in the office. That will only work if managers take a team-centric approach to the hybrid workplace, and build a common schedule that brings everyone on the team to the office on the same two or three days each week. 6park.comEmployees also have gotten used to the idea that meetings are a place for informal check-ins with their colleagues. Over the course of the pandemic, Dr. Birkett says, managers have used “team meetings and communications as a tool to enhance well-being and support employees, rather than purely for operational reasons.” Managers should continue that practice, especially because a year apart may have weakened ties—and trust—among employees. 6park.comDr. Kelly also advises managers to “create opportunities for people to be back in the same space.” 6park.comA common schedule is part of that strategy, but managers can do more by encouraging them to maximize their interactions during office days. For instance, if a pre-Covid office was the kind of place where people would get the side eye for spending too much time chit-chatting in the break room, bosses can make an explicit break with that past. 6park.comOf course, encouraging social interaction isn’t the same thing as making that interaction mandatory. The past year has allowed introverts to reclaim their freedom from forced, uncomfortable socializing, and given extroverts the opportunity to pursue friendships and activities with colleagues outside of the workplace. Rather than trying to turn back the clock, managers should recognize that some of their employees are going to approach the return to the office like a reunion of long-lost friends, while others are just there to get the job done. 6park.comRecognizing that different employees have different needs has always been the most important—and the hardest—part about being a manager. That will never be more true than in the coming months. Employees are emerging from the pandemic year as changed, but in different ways. The best managers won’t just recognize that. They’ll also benefit from it.
Then there’s the dreaded meeting. Employees have long complained about meeting overload, of course, but the past year took that exhaustion to a whole new level—thanks to the frustrations of virtual meetings plus the reliance on meetings as a way to make up for the loss of informal, spontaneous interactions. 6park.com