Have you ever had a habit that you wish you could break? Biting your nails, scrolling on your phone at night, procrastinating — we all have our vices. Having our lives flipped upside down by the pandemic over the last year (and spending a lot more time cooped up) has forced us to reckon with the bad habits we’ve accumulated over the years, as well as the better habits we’d like to create for ourselves.
But while many of us have done a great job of taking up yoga, cooking meals from scratch, or learning a new skill over lockdown, our work habits are still an area that may need some improvement. Working from home over the past year has allowed us to take stock of our life in employment — how our working style works (or doesn’t work) for us, and what we may want to change when things return to ‘normal.’
And now, as our ‘new normal’ begins to take shape and teams around the world begin to migrate back to the office, it’s a perfect time to make and break some work habits.
Why good work habits are important to managing your team
As an employer, you have a lot of responsibilities to your team. How you work every day sets an example to those around you — that’s why it’s vital for you always to be actively learning and trying to improve the careers of everyone on your team.
The habits you invest in at work show your teammates what is expected of them and how you would like your team to operate. If you create good work habits, your team will be motivated to follow your lead and invest in their own positive habit-building. Now more than ever, it’s essential to motivate your team for success, as we all prepare for returning to work after COVID.
Important factors in your return-to-work program
To figure out which habits are most important for you to build as we return to the office, it’s essential to understand your employees’ mindsets. After working at home for over a year, many of us have reevaluated our work priorities and what we want from employers in the future.
In a 2020 survey, the Adecco Group questioned 8000 workers across eight countries about what would be important to them in working post-COVID, with some interesting insights. A strong case was put forward for employer flexibility and favoring results over clocked hours, with 69% of employees suggesting that their contracts should be based on meeting the needs of the business rather than the hours they work.
74% of employees said they wanted their managers to demonstrate an empathetic and supportive leadership style post-pandemic, with 70% citing support for their mental wellbeing as an important factor in returning to the office.
But while employees are stating emotionally available management as a top priority, employers need some help in that arena. More than half (54%) of the leaders surveyed said they need “support to be able to navigate these new expectations,” with just 12% “excelling” in holistic support of their employees during lockdown.
So how can employers begin to support their teams in returning to the office post-pandemic? As with all great businesses, the example should come from the top. As a leader, the habits you invest in every day, both for your own working style and your employees’, set the example for how you want your business to succeed. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of essential habits to form as you prepare for RTO, as well as some to leave behind.
The work habits you should make when returning to work after COVID
The way you communicate with your employees has a direct correlation to your business’s success. Organizations with effective change and communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. According to McKinsey, productivity can increase by up to 25% in organizations where employees are connected.
As an employer, strive to create an environment of open communication and transparency. Employees appreciate being kept in the loop about important updates and changes, especially when much about the workplace is so uncertain. Practice regular updates and feedback sessions with your team, engaging with them on a personal level as well as on a corporate one. Use remote tools to your advantage and create a stream of consistent communication with your team, no matter where they're based. Your team should know that you are available to listen to their concerns and will communicate with them openly wherever possible.
Whether it’s to address an issue with their work or praise them for a job well done, it’s vital that your organization practices active and regular feedback for your employees. According to Officevibe, “four out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback”, with 43% of highly engaged employees receiving feedback at least once a week. Liaise with your team leads and ensure that a feedback policy is put in place for your organization. Celebrate your employees’ wins, both big and small, and advocate for them when their work is not up to par — ensure that they feel supported and work with them, not against them, to find a solution.
A 2016 Gallup engagement poll showed that 82% of managers and executives are seen as lacking in leadership skills by their employees. Team leaders have many responsibilities, but being a reliable and consistent mentor to their employees is perhaps the most important. As an employer, investigate implementing a mentoring program in your organization. Pair new hires with more experienced executives and encourage open conversations around career advice and development in the office. As an individual leader, make it a habit to check in with your team individually on how their career goals are developing at your organization. What can you do to lead and encourage them?
Embracing hybrid working
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has completely changed the game in terms of remote and hybrid working. The pandemic has accelerated the burgeoning trend of hybrid working worldwide, and, according to countless reports, the method is here to stay. While it can be difficult to pivot your leadership style to mesh with a hybrid working model, endeavor to make it a priority for you and your team. Ensure your remote workers are supported, both holistically and technically, with the right equipment and software to collaborate seamlessly.
Investing in technology
Over the past 18 months, innovations in technology have made it possible for teams to collaborate and communicate in unprecedented conditions. As we transition back to ‘normal,’ adopting a technologically forward mindset is just as important. Technology can be utilized in myriad ways at your organization — whether that’s in work management software to streamline projects, scaling AI to prevent failures and defects in your products, or creating a safe, post-COVID environment for your employees.
While building your new work habits, remember that some of your well-practiced habits may not be serving you like they used to. Here are some that you should consider leaving at home as you return to the workplace.
The work habits you should break in your post-COVID office
We’ve all thought to ourselves, “couldn’t this have been an email?” in a Zoom meeting at some point this past year. As we return to the office, employees are less likely to politely accept unnecessary time-wasting. While regular meetings and updates are necessary for smooth project management, it’s worth keeping them to a tight schedule and only herding everyone into the boardroom when completely necessary. Make use of your newfound technology innovations and explore more efficient ways to communicate with your team.
You may pride yourself on being a fantastic multitasker, but is this skill beneficial to your work? Studies have shown that when our brain tries to switch back and forth between two tasks, especially if those tasks are complex and require active attention to complete, we become less efficient. Similarly, if you work on your tasks with your email or chat software constantly pinging you about other tasks, it’s difficult to complete anything to a good standard. When you return to the office, cut your multitasking, focus on one task at a time, and encourage your team to do the same. You may start to notice a marked improvement in productivity.
Favoring time over output
As your employees have gotten used to more flexible working hours, you should reevaluate how you measure their performance as they return to the office. Are you more interested in them staying late every evening or turning in a fantastic finished product? As we return to ‘normal,’ your employees will be just as motivated to do their jobs well, but time spent online should not be a marker for success. As a leader, set an example of not micromanaging your teams’ schedules, especially outside working hours. Research has shown that an ‘always on’ culture can be harmful to productivity and employees’ mental wellbeing. Scrap clockwatching and see how your team can get creative with their workloads.
A 2017 Staples survey of small business owners saw 1 in 3 say that workplace disorganization leads to less productivity. What’s more, 75% of struggling or failing business owners believed that workplace disorganization had contributed to their lack of success. Workplace disorganization means lost opportunities, lost productivity, and lost revenue for your workplace. As an employer, it’s imperative that you are organized and coordinated in your day-to-day work. Workers rely on you for guidance and assistance, and if you’re scrambling to locate a certain file, contact, or project deliverable, this can eat away at their confidence in your leadership. Invest in organizational tools, such as a flexible all-in-one work management system like Wrike that can keep everything in one place and give you more time to lead.
Ignoring work-life balance
According to Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey, employers that support employees with their life experience see a 23% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental health. This is of a huge benefit to employers, who see a 21% increase in the number of high performers compared to organizations that don’t provide the same degree of support to their employees. Over the pandemic, workers have experienced higher stress levels than ever before. As we transition back to the workplace, you must invest in their mental wellbeing, which starts with encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
How Wrike can help your team form better work habits as you return to the office
Using a work management system like Wrike can encourage your teams to do their best work. Here are just some of the ways that using Wrike can help to build positive work habits:
- Collaboration-focused software, including chat and email integrations and real-time feedback and editing, will allow your team to work together from anywhere and communicate seamlessly, cutting back on wasted time waiting on emails or bad connections.
- Resource management tools will take the stress out of organizing your return to work program. Create tasks and subtasks for all your RTO needs, and organize deliverables seamlessly.
- Our all-in-one software means that your hybrid and remote workers don’t have to worry about technology troubles or lack of access. Everything is right at your fingertips with Wrike.
Interested in how we can help your teams to thrive post-pandemic? Try Wrike with a two-week free trial.