Enabling People Working Remote

I recently heard some fascinating comments about the changing worker landscape from Karin Kimbrough, the Chief Economist with LinkedIn. You are all aware of the massive worker shortage. Well, that is because somewhere around 20 million quit their jobs during the last half of 2021. When asked why, Kimbrough remarked that many were looking at their old jobs and saying “it just might not be worth it.” This might explain why people are not flooding back into the job market, even when their government benefits have expired,

There were a couple of other tidbits that got my attention. She said that today, people are two and one-half times more likely to apply for a remote-working job than one in an office. And she stated that before the pandemic, 1 in every 67 jobs was remote. Today, 1 in 7 are. However, you look at this, it does appear that more flexibility and autonomy are going to be key parts of employee needs and expectations going forward.

So leaders, how are your enabling muscles working these days? To inspire those out of sight to do their best work, you might have to interact with them differently, in order to show that you truly trust them. And, they will likely have different needs of you, in order for them to feel fully equipped and supported. Over the past few months, a number of people have confided in me that they have not yet figured out the best way to lead in this new, more remote environment. And even if you have officially brought everyone back, or soon will, the work environment will not feel the way it did a couple of years ago. Many will neither want, nor feel the need to return to the office. And based on current trends, they may feel that it is just not worth it, and apply for a more conducive, remote-environment position.

It is clearly the time to have some meaningful conversations with those whose commitment to the business may also seem a little more remote these days. You need to know what they need from you to feel trusted, supported and equipped. You need to understand their aspirations about work and family life, as those may have changed. For example, your people may want to grow in their abilities to perform, contribute, and prosper, but have less interest in a future promotion requiring them to be back in the office all day. And they may have novel ideas on how they can continue to do even better work in a remote environment, which you have never considered. There is that expression that you lead – one conversation at a time. If you are not already, begin devoting intentional time right now to ensure these extremely important conversations take place.

Listen to understand and realize that perhaps your greatest accomplishments in the near term will be finding creative ways to keep workers giving their all for the job, while feeling immensely accommodated by the company. There are usually answers to challenges such as this one, if you are open enough to see them. It won’t be easy, but it will indeed be worth the effort.


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