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What the New World of Work Means for You

“In this case the challenge is the opportunity.” – Kaplan Mobray

How can leaders navigate The New World of Work at The Sweeney Agency Speakers Bureau

Welcome to The New World of Work… but what does that mean?

In March 2020, organizations scrambled to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Boardrooms shifted to sitting rooms; team lunches to track pants; business trips to zoom backgrounds seemingly overnight. A year on it is commonplace for new team members to have never met their colleagues in real life and for kids to pop into virtual AGMs requesting snacks.

But what now? As the world ponders a return to the workplace, what does that mean?

We hosted a discussion on LinkedIn last week asking our top speakers across a variety of topics, including the future, leadership, communications, and teamwork, this question:

“What is the greatest challenge organizations will face in returning to the office?”

The answer sounds simple: the “office” will look quite different. However, the implications of this are quite complex.

Journalist Anthony Klotz of Bloomberg recently called it “The Great Resignation” in an article where he prophesied that come September, the date when many organizations expect to return to the office, a large percentage of workers will in fact resign, having become too accustomed to remote work to be tied to a desk. 

The Wall Street Journal, citing Labor Department statistics, reported that 2.7% of workers left their jobs in April 2021, the highest number in more than 20 years. 

After a year of remote work, it is hard to argue the attractiveness of a desk with a view, and the “business on top, relaxed on the bottom” wardrobe required for virtual meetings. 

Here’s what the statistics are saying:

Ryan Estis, our speaker on leadership & performance, cites this stat: 55% of employees said they would prefer to remain remote at least three days per week while 90% of knowledge workers say that when they search for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and geographic location.

Those are staggering statistics compared to a year ago. Dr. Britt Andreatta, an expert in the science of learning, explains why this is the case: “[Our] current toolset fails the hybrid workforce test. Tools designed for a pre-pandemic world are directly linked to increasing burnout.”

Remote work, homeschooling, and the demands of lockdowns have made burnout a catchphrase of 2020. 

Futurist Nancy Giordano suggests that we all need to take a nap… and she isn’t kidding. She wrote that “being in a state of constant learning, collaborating, creating and coordinating is exhausting and absolutely incongruent with an outdated industrial era schedule/pattern of work. As we accelerate the shift from an Industrial era to a Productivity Era, we have to learn that efficient, assembly-line thinking doesn’t work anymore (and will burn us all out)… ingenuity requires time + space for rejuvenation and self-care.”

One thing is clear: the New World of Work is here, and it is up to leaders to learn to navigate this world to retain their staff and learn to operate under new rules it requires. 

How can leaders learn to navigate this period of change?

Organizational Culture expert Adrian Gostick recommends that the first thing that organizations need to do is to address these two questions:

  • Help people understand WHY they should give up the flexibility of remote work (i.e., here’s what we get by working together)
  • Help people overcome their anxiety of working in close proximity with others who may or may not be vaccinated (which is going to take empathy and wise leadership).

Dr. Tasha Eurich, organizational psychologist, builds on this with the reminder that we are all out of practice when it comes to in-person socializing and working. What used to feel “normal” may feel overwhelming for many as we return to the workplace. Compassionate leadership will be more important than ever during this period of transition.

Interestingly, remote work offered more opportunity for inclusion, posits Kaplan Mobray, a keynote speaker on leadership and inclusion. Video calls gave voice to introverts and extraverts, resulting in greater teamwork, inclusion, and thus, innovation. 

Moving towards a return to the office will put the onus on leaders to focus on making sure employees at all levels feel heard, are encouraged to be vocal, and stay motivated to do more as goals and deadlines increase in intensity.

The challenge and opportunity will be to establish a culture where productivity and inclusiveness remain as central drivers of personal and organizational culture. 

This will look different for every organization. It will take courage and bravery for leaders to work with their teams through the initial turbulence to figure out what is best for them versus what is best for others, suggesting workplace culture speaker Eric Termuende

One thing is certain: we are entering a new phase of work. The lessons and shifts created during the pandemic have allowed us all to look at our workplaces and teams from a new perspective. The challenge now is to embrace those changes and move forward into a New World of Work. 


    To learn more about these Experts on the New World of Work on Innovation & Leadership contact [email protected]

    Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]