The COVID-19 pandemic broke through the technological and cultural barriers that prevented remote working and Work From Home in the past and has introduced a structural shift in where work happens. With social-distancing, quarantines, and even self-isolation pushing tens of thousands of people to work from home, the pandemic simply accelerated the workplace experiment that previously struggled to gain traction.
The benefits and challenges of remote working became clearer once we went deep into the pandemic. The learnings are quite clear – while office-based collaboration continues to remain important, it is becoming increasingly clear that remote work is here to stay. A recent Gartner poll revealed that 90% of HR leaders concur that employees would be allowed to work remotely even after COVID vaccines are available. While employees might have settled into this remote work setup and organizations have made extensive sets of technology and collaborative tools available, the workforce needs more support from the organization.
Now, as people return to work gradually as economies reopen, we see hybrid models of remote work gaining traction.
However, there are some challenges that come with this remote setup. Research shows:
- Mental wellbeing is a concern with work-from-home burnout becoming a tangible reality. This makes emotional support and enablement at work valuable
- Employees are concerned about work-life balance and productivity
- Employees need more help with productivity and engagement
- Employee experience surveys are dated, and employees want more open conversations to address their specific (new) needs
- There is an explosive demand for online learning as employees look for resources to settle and succeed in the new normal
A closer look shows that these issues and challenges have a direct impact on employee engagement. Along with technology tools to bolster collaboration, it also becomes imperative that organizations have new-age coaching strategies in place to enable the employees to help them stay engaged and productive.
Here are a few areas that organizations should focus on while revamping their coaching strategies:
Identify and alleviate work-from-home burnout
Research supports the fact that employee burnout levels in 2020 have remained consistently high, with 69% of the workforce experiencing burnout symptoms. Stress, financial anxiety, and the ‘living at work’ feeling are the most obvious contributors. Anxiety regarding career paths and growth trajectories, feelings of isolation, difficulties in communication, lack of visibility, or video fatigue (yes, those incessant zoom calls can be exhausting) have all contributed to employee burnout.
Concerns regarding perception in a world that promotes ‘survival of the fittest’ go against mental wellbeing and contribute heavily towards burnout. Organizations thus need to have the right tools in place to identify concerns that lead to burning out.
Coaching can play a pivotal role to help employees manage their work and help them develop a new vocabulary fit for this remote world of work. With coaching, employees can internalize the new rules of engagement and learn how to be visible, impactful, focused, and energetic.
Coach to drive work-life-balance
Work-life balance has taken a big hit owing to the pandemic. Most employees across organizations are struggling to establish boundaries between work and their personal lives. While work-from-home might have offered a break from the commute, office environments, and regular daily routines, it has completely dismissed the mental break needed from work and technology.
A barrage of video meetings, constant ping of the email, excessive screen time, and a less than optimal work environment can significantly increase stress and burnout levels.
Coaching can be the antidote to burnout as coach-learner relationships are open and continuous in nature. The coach can help the learner identify their stress triggers, issues that impact work-life balance, and help them respond to these with clarity.
Coaching managers and leadership also drive work-life balance as it helps the leadership understand the challenges faced by the workforce better. Managers and leaders need to revamp their management strategies and make them fit this new world of work. Coaching can help managers and leaders build greater empathy and help them understand employee challenges and concerns. Armed with the right information, they can then build communication and collaboration strategies and help their workforce manage and maintain work-life- balance.
Organizational coaches need coaching
Organizations not only have to focus on coaching their employees, but they also have to put in equal efforts to coach their coaches. With so much change disrupting the world of work, organizations have to evaluate their training and coaching strategies and give their coaches the right tools and information to build better engagement with the learners.
It is also important that organizations identify internal coaches from their workforce – people who have the qualities to hold space, exchange information, motivate and encourage peers and team members.
However, to get tangible results from this, organizations need to employ powerful AI-driven coaching platforms that make the right coach-learner pairing. It is equally important to identify behavioral and personality traits using behavior analysis or 16-personality factor assessment tests to identify potential coaches and their learning gaps to help them move along this path fruitfully.
The organization has changed – Establish a coaching culture
2021 is the year of strategic importance as organizations focus singularly to improve business outcomes. At the same time, business transformation, operational excellence, and skill development are essential to focus areas.
Given the quantum of change and disruption, establishing an internal coaching culture becomes imperative to manage disruption and ease change management. Establishing such a culture helps all – employees, managers, and leadership – meet and adapt to the new rules in the world of work.
Using AI-driven coaching platforms becomes essential to create such a culture since then organizations can deliver contextual and relevant coaching programs to their workforce. Relevance and context play in as critical contributors owing to the rise of the millennials and Gen Z in the workforce who are motivated by these factors.
Organizational resilience is the capacity of an organization to anticipate, prepare, respond and adapt to sudden disruptions or incremental change.
Organizational resilience is directly linked to employee resilience. Enabling employees to identify robust growth plans, acknowledging and rewarding effort, and working towards delivering an enabling working environment contribute to resilience. Coaching also plays a critical role in driving resilience by helping employees identify and address factors that impact resilience.
Whether it is identifying avenues for technical skill development or critical skills like communication, empathy, collaboration, and others, coaching can play a pivotal role to enable the workforce and thereby drive resilience. Focusing on coaching to improve working relationships – between peers and managers also contributes to organizational resilience as it helps in building trust. Trust not only drives resilience but also has a direct impact on employee engagement and drives employees to do more for the organization.
Old school strategies no longer suffice in a new age world. Organizations have to internalize the fact that disruption and change will only increase. The only way to stay ahead of the curve in the face of uncertainty and change is to prepare the workforce and develop them such that they are future-ready with the right skills, both technical and critical, and can ably lead the organization to success.
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