As more people are getting their vaccines, we are starting to experience a sense of normalcy in our everyday lives. In some countries, people are no longer confined in their homes and are now venturing the outdoors just like before the pandemic. This is great news for businesses and corporate offices that have been enduring remote work for more than a year. Employees can now return to their old workspaces and resume work in normal terms.
The pandemic was difficult for remote employees in different ways. Now they’re returning to the office; everything will feel fresh and new to them. This is especially true for employees who joined the workforce during the lockdown and are starting to work with their coworkers in person for the first time. To establish connection and engagement, companies are now coming up with team-building activities. Some even treat their employees to a camping experience by providing recreational vehicles such as camper vans and toy hauler RVs.
In response to the pandemic, months of lockdown and public health guidelines created a dramatic shift to virtual and remote work for most workplaces. As we plan and look forward to the future, organizations and businesses should carefully consider how the post-pandemic will shape the modern workplace. In this article, we’ll talk about how to develop engaged and productive teams after the pandemic.
A shift in work structure
The recent decades have witnessed constant shifts in the corporate structure of companies and businesses, away from hierarchic structures in place of self-managing or cross-functional team networks. In 2016, a survey revealed a large portion of big corporations switched to cross-functional and interdisciplinary teams. Three years later, the respondents shared most of their office work is done in teams.
The pandemic witnessed how these organizations transition their teams from on-site work to remote collaboration through videoconferencing platforms, such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams. Many employees appreciated the autonomy, flexibility, and comfort that comes with remote work, but it also caused a great deal of challenges when it comes to social interactions and work-life balance.
As employees emerge from their homes, workplace teams need an office environment that maintains the flexibility and autonomy of remote work while fostering the need for belongingness. Employees should have the freedom to choose the time and the place they prefer to work. In turn, employers should also consider the adverse effects of loneliness, isolation, fatigue, and depression, which affected remote employees during the pandemic.
Study shows that autonomy goes hand in hand in building a sense of cohesion and belonging in workplace teams. Organizations must set the right balance and organize teams with structural considerations in mind to make this possible.
For instance, organizations should build strong leaders to manage workplace teams or highlight shared leadership. In turn, teams should require task interfaces and interdependencies among members, so others can also work in isolation. At the same time, organizations should also offer the same rewards and goals both for teams and individual workers.
Overall, combining all the aspects of teamwork that foster autonomy, cohesiveness, and a sense of belonging will help workplace teams move towards a better path after the pandemic.
Highlight shared goals
While some employees remain working in a remote setting, leaders must establish their shared objectives and rewards. Workplace teams need a common vision that matches the level of autonomy they experienced in virtual teamwork.
Emphasizing the features of teamwork will bring employees closer together. During the pandemic, many organizations have learned the importance of social hours in place of spontaneous interactions in the office pantry. Book clubs are a new form of informal learning, while Zoom chats have replaced face-to-face town halls.
In the post-pandemic workplace, fewer organizations will likely retain an all-remote presence to shift towards the hybrid model. But as teams return to the office, it’s still important to retain the perks of remote work, such as uninterrupted periods for major projects and respect for individual preferences.
The post-pandemic will also eliminate the troublesome aspects of corporate life, such as presenteeism or going to work even if the worker is sick. The dramatic shifts in the modern workplace during the pandemic have opened many opportunities for positive changes. Going back to the old normal is like putting these opportunities down the drain.
The bottom line
It’s safe to say that the work landscape will never look the same way again. While the post-pandemic workplace involves a lot of adjustments for work teams, keep in mind that change is inevitable and a requirement for growth. Use this time to build more opportunities for productive and efficient teams.