Like most businesses, the way we run our organisation has dramatically changed over the past seven months.  Although we have always focused on the wellbeing of our employees, ensuring they benefit from clear career progression and work/life balance, there is nothing like a global pandemic to force managers to re-evaluate their leadership style.

Work consumes the best hours and the best years of our lives.  For most of human history, everyone worked at or close to home, either on their own farm or in a shop below their living quarters.  Although it would be a mistake to romanticise pre-industrial revolution life, people lived and worked within a community in which everyone relied on each other.  Going ‘to work’, whether that be in a factory or the office,  is a modern phenomenon that does not suit everyone.

How commuting negatively affects wellbeing

A 2017 ONS study suggests that with every succeeding minute of travel to work, our happiness and life satisfaction decrease – thus increasing our anxiety. This does not come as much of a surprise when you reflect that British workers spend an average of 54 minutes commuting to work every day. This understandably takes a toll on our happiness and wellbeing… especially when trains are delayed.

The ONS adds that lengthy commutes, ranging from an hour to an hour-and-a-half, have the most negative effect on our overall wellbeing.

Homeworking is not the right fit for everyone

However, homeworking in 2020, without the community and family connections which were present 200 years ago can be incredibly isolating.  This is especially so for young people who live alone.  For them, the office provides a social life and a stable routine that can quickly disappear when a commute involves moving from a bed to a desk.

Small teams have the ability to be creative and more productive than a solitary person.  But achieving this balance at a time when many team members have to or want to work from home can be tricky.

How we have embraced new management principles

By listening to and trusting our employees, we have balanced the competing needs of ensuring our employees can enjoy the lifestyle that benefits them and their family with the requirement to collaborate with colleagues.  Rather then measure productivity by the number of hours spent glued to a screen, we trust our staff to spend the time needed to get the job done.  They are not asked to sit in on irrelevant Zoom meetings just to ‘show their face’.  Instead, we use project completion and customer satisfaction as performance measures.  We also ensure that employees are aware that for there mental health, a clear delineation between work and home is required.  No one expects emails to be answered after hours.

By allowing our employees to exercise leadership and autonomy, whilst ensuring that they are aware that management will support them in their decisions, our productivity and staff optimism has dramatically increased.  The Coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges for businesses.  However, we must embrace the opportunity provided by the upheaval to take advantage of technology and readjust management behaviour and expectations, in order to meet the needs of modern employees and society.