We received a number of comments and emails last week following a piece published on a former City Executive who noted that many did not want to return to workplaces as they did not want to return to many of the bad habits which they had formed, due to stress and anxiety, before the lockdowns.
The executive had noted that many had not given enough thought to the facts that many had drug or alcohol issues or struggled with depression and stress. The lockdowns gave many a release from this as they were able to rediscover family life, become fitter and healthier, sleep longer and feel generally happier. Given that it was estimated that over 42% of people struggled with anxiety before the pandemic, isn’t it natural that many would be reluctant to return to that life.
The question posed – how has work environments changed if you want people to return?
On the same theme, a senior hotelier privately noted that; “ The pandemic will have changed leadership. One can not demand that people return to the workplace. One needs to create an environment where people want to be. We know that people want to work for companies they possess strong purpose, both in business and socially, so we have worked hard to ensure that all our people understand our goals both in business and socially. It does work but it is a new narrative.”
This view was supported by another who commented “ Absolutely. The days of the “alpha” leader are long gone. Leadership today is about how one creates a framework which allows people to excel. One can see the same in sport. It is no longer about bringing together a collection of talented individuals but how one builds a team and a culture which allows all to feel they can contribute. It will take time but it already well down the path.”
The view that leadership is changing through the pressures and demands of this time is supported by another who commented; “The companies which are seeing the best returns are those who have invested the most in communicating and supporting their people. People want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. It is natural. I agreed with your piece. I suspect there were more impacted by various addictions than was known. It could well be that the lockdowns were a good thing as allowed many families, let alone businesses to have a reset. Out of curiously, do we know if the divorce rate fell during 2020 and 21? I ask as I know many who say that their greatest pleasure was being with their families more so I can understand the reluctance to get back on the 6am train”
Another mental health expert noted “The pandemic impacted many in different ways. It was had severe impacts on those who lived in poorer accommodation but I can see that it helped many senior executives who felt over pressurised. The one thing it has done is made all organisations think differently about their teams and people which has been good. There are those who still are reluctant to change or listen but the vast majority are working very hard to better employers and understand the issues.”
Another executive commented; “I get it completely as I don’t want to go back to how it was so I cant ask my team to. It wasn’t good in the past. We all worked silly hours and for what reason. Some companies took pride in working long hours but if it burnt their people out, what is there to be proud about? I am optimistic that we are finding better work patterns which will work for 2023 and that is encouraging for the business.”
There has been a growing return to the workplace but under new terms. Many are doing 3 days in the office so many we are now in the “New Norm”. The fear of recession has certainly been a catalyst in bring people back but the feel is different across city centres. The return to work may well be happening but it is likely that it has changed from the past.