When it comes to work and leading teams that thrive, the world in which leaders need to do this is undergoing some seismic shifts. From portfolio careers to the shift to work-from-home, from the gig economy to the growth of the startup culture, how, where and why we work has significantly changed.
The work-from-home era
COVID-19 necessitated the most transformational shifts to work for perhaps a century. The most notable was when almost overnight the officebound workforce globally relocated to their homes. For the first time in modern history working from home became the norm and even ushered in the three-letter acronym to describe it: WFH.
The connectivity provided by collaborative platforms and video conferencing meant many businesses could continue their operations without any staff in their office. Our national study showed that 69% of workers were as, if not more productive when working from home than they were at the office, and that far from being a temporary solution, 78% believe working from home will become the new normal.
There has already been a challenge for leaders to ensure the wellbeing of their staff when they gather in their physical workplace. This can be an even greater challenge when staff are operating remotely from their individual places of residence. Though there are many benefits to working from home, there are also some challenges that leaders should be aware of.
The rise of the gig economy
The gig economy and precarious work (non-standard employment) are also impacting where and when people work. One in three 18-29 year olds have a ‘side hustle’ outside their normal job.1 Yet a McCrindle report in partnership with Reventure revealed that more than two in five workers (45%) felt insecure about their current workplace arrangement. The greatest perceived benefit of the casualisation of the Australian workforce is flexibility (42%), but the greatest risk is financial instability (59%), the lack of leave benefits (59%) and the unpredictable hours, leading to a decrease in workers’ ability to commit (57%).2 While the gig economy can provide greater choice and flexibility for workers, it can also negatively impact on workers’ wellbeing if they do not feel secure in their work.
While workers want flexible working hours as an option, the downside is that as work becomes more precarious, isolated workers miss out on the collaboration and connection that comes from working with a team of people. This extends to our workplaces, with face-to-face and interpersonal interactions becoming increasingly rare as devices become more ingrained in people’s lives. As a result, what we are seeing is an increase in workplace loneliness, with 37% of people feeling lonely at work.3
The need for wellbeing amidst the change
The challenge of increased screen time, sedentary lives and social isolation was a growing problem even before COVID-19. Digital technologies and a global workforce are blurring the lines of work and rest, enabling people to work anywhere at any time. This makes it harder for workers to detach themselves from their work and can have a negative impact on work/life balance.
Even the emerging generations, who have been shaped in the digital era, acknowledge the downsides of technology and that screen time can diminish rather than enhance community. The Deloitte Millennials survey shows that while this generation is warm towards technology and its productivity, more than half (53%) said they were pessimistic about technology’s impact, particularly around a diminishing culture that enables social interaction.1 Additionally, it is the emerging generations who are looking to their work to meet their social needs, not just their financial ones.
The changing nature of work, along with what the workplace looks like, means workplace leaders need to adjust and adapt their strategies about how, where and when they will prioritise work wellbeing.
1 Triple J, What’s Up in Your World, 2018
2 Reventure, A Future that Works, Precarious Work Insights, 2018
3 Reventure, A Future that Works, Workplace Loneliness, 2019
4 Deloitte, The 2017 Deloitte Millennials Survey, 2017