Managers will play a key role in the sustainable success of hybrid work in MEA
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Managers will play a key role in the sustainable success of hybrid work in MEA

Managers will play a key role in the sustainable success of hybrid work in MEA

It is important for business leaders to remember that managers are closest to employees and have the greatest visibility into problems and solutions

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Managers MEA

The reimagining of the workplace has been a learning for us all that is far from over. Reflecting on our Work Trend Index, it’s clear that those of us who went home to work in early 2020 are no longer the same, and there is urgent opportunity – and responsibility – for leaders to approach the transition with intention and a growth mindset, or risk being left behind.

Employees throughout the world are revising their “worth it” equation, or what they want from work and what they’re prepared to sacrifice in exchange, according to the data. While 47 per cent of respondents say they are more inclined than before the pandemic to prioritise family and personal life above work, 53 per cent, particularly parents and women, say they are more likely to prioritise their health and wellness over work.

As culture, flexibility and wellbeing climb the list of employee priorities, it’s team leaders who are being tasked with meeting these needs and ensuring organisations retain and attract top talent, while simultaneously meeting the needs of the business.

Empower managers to lead
Though managers are more important than ever in this new world of work, they have no easy task. Often, tension between employee expectations and business priorities causes managers to feel powerless as they’re wedged between the two. While some managers feel that leadership within their organisation is out of touch with employee expectations, others feel they don’t have the influence or necessary resources to implement change for their team.

To combat these challenges, managers need to be empowered to express clearly what their teams’ goals and priorities are. This will not only look different from organisation to organisation, but from team to team within a single company. While policy is set at the top, leaders need to decentralise decision-making and empower managers as far as practical to initiate change on behalf of their employees’ individual needs.

Today’s modern workplace needs new norms
In the modern workplace, every organisation needs culture carriers who support the environment to be inclusive and flexible, while still maintaining the needs of team members and business. Empowering managers to assume this role by clearly stating the who, where and why within your hybrid strategy will go a long way in creating a sense of intentionality around in-person gatherings and collaboration.

For example, with varying degrees of success, many companies have not only attempted to recreate in-person work online during the pandemic, but team cohesion and creative collaboration too — the functionality we relied on offices to enable. However, even this mindset is limiting in that the workplace conflated purpose with location. Our sense of meaning in the workplace permeates the activities of work, wherever they’re happening in the world. It’s that common cause that creates the “placeness” of work.

Another major challenge facing managers and their teams is the rise of the ‘always on’ culture. One of the trends we notice is that chats are on the rise, often spilling beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. Working after hours has also increased, rising to 28 per cent overall and 14 per cent on the weekend work. Creating new norms within your teams and setting boundaries to guard against these ‘always on’ working habits will be contribute to the sustainable success of hybrid work.

Overall, it’s important for business leaders to remember that managers are closest to employees and have the greatest visibility into problems and solutions. It’s through these team leaders that businesses will be able to strike a balance between employees’ expectations around flexible work and the need for in-person connection to create a sustainable work culture.

Paula Leech is the human resources director at Microsoft Middle East and Africa

Read: The business ‘control tower’ – how to make the right moves in 2022

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