I’ve written, from time-to-time about the generational differences and the way these drive our motivations and it is interesting to consider how those in their 20s are being affected by the current social, political and economic influences. I choose this group, and particularly new graduates, because they are entering the remote working environment, not having anything to compare it with and not having to let go of certain habits and find a new normal, because there is no other known to them.
I have been observing different behaviours in different age groups and, although we have a society that should not discriminate on the grounds of age, nonetheless, it is important to remember the impact that events are having on different age groups in the wider diversity picture.
Some older workers, in contrast, have decided that the struggle in the pandemic is too great and have accelerated their early retirement.
Young people have nothing to compare their current experiences with, particularly if remote working is part of their current job or they had only a short time of being office-based before going into remote working. One difficulty faced by us all is how to put boundaries in place and establish a certain kind of self-discipline. Virtual working is partly in the head, a state of mind and approach, as well as being virtual in the sense of being on the screen.
Remote working affects the way you manage your time, the way you establish boundaries, the way you structure your life, the way you network and the way you manage stress. There are an awful lot of extra considerations and these are in addition to the lower order needs such as food, exercise and entertainment.
There is stress on every side. Those of us who have worked for many years understand the contrasts and understand the importance of setting boundaries. As I put a dress on for the first time the other day to meet a client for lunch, the first time since March, I was thinking about how some people don’t even know what the norms are for dress in certain circumstances.
The younger generations are already used to online media; that is a plus. However, they do not value the flexibility in the way that we do, who have in the past been hemmed down by rules, regulations and having to be present (not to mention the commute).
Different personality types have different challenges. The extrovert finds the lack of socialisation, normally given by the workplace, very trying. Loneliness can be a big problem to an extrovert.
The perfectionist can allow him or herself to continue working beyond what is reasonable to arrive at a perfect outcome, leading to exhaustion and burnout.
Undoubtedly, with not being office-based, a lack of overheads is a plus and those of us who have worked remotely for many years have been able to pass on those savings to clients.
The whole area of freedom is interesting. We have freedom to operate as we wish, which enforces the need for boundaries and we have freedom FROM, which is very different - from the straightjacketing that certain organisations have given us throughout our career.
Whereas older workers have networks well established and can develop their career through those networks, younger people do not have those networks. The lack of an office space and a career based in a number of organisations can make life much more difficult. Their networks will have to be established from a more difficult position. There are no co-incidences; there is no ‘bumping into’ people with a chance encounter that can shape our lives and turn us in another direction.
Those who are starting a new job have planned handover; this is often much more complex when the new start is remote and away from the knowledgeable job-holder. There are those who have never even met their colleagues face-to-face and have only had the digital pathways to get to know each other.
Personally, I love working at home. I’m fortunate to have enough space, but it is very hard if you haven’t. It is also very difficult if you have young children at home requiring understandable attention. On balance, for me, it works but I’m very aware that it doesn’t work for everybody, neither in terms of time, nor space, nor energy and it does not fit with every personality profile. It’s perhaps worth looking at your workforce from the point of view of psychometric profiling.
Even our biases are different as there is the inability to develop trust at a deeper level over a period for those who have worked only remotely. Giving feedback is, therefore, even more difficult and honing of leadership skills becomes more paramount. Perhaps this is the time to invest in leadership development even though it may feel counter-intuitive.
We have experienced various norms, some of which we’re happy to get rid of and some of which we miss. For example, we are now producing a handbook for our clients on ‘working from home’ – employment law still applies and some of it has to be applied with even more rigour because of the lack of boundaries, but there are whole new aspects about working from home that need to be covered.
If you’d like to discuss leadership development and to see the various training structures that we have developed, please do get in touch. Likewise, if you’d like us to develop a new handbook that is fit for purpose in the new home working arena, please do contact us. Perhaps also you need to know about predicting which workers will thrive best in which environments. Again, we can help.