Business leaders must stay flexible when redefining their workplace

Change will be the only certainty in the next few years. While there are external challenges companies must contend with, some changes will be driven by employees as they and their employers settle into new work arrangements.

“The work environment is likely to undergo drastic changes,” says Kurt Kappa, chief lending officer at First Federal Lakewood. “That will require an efficient and flexible leadership team that can quickly direct important changes the organization may need to make.”

Smart Business spoke with Kappa about how recent events are beginning to shape a new internal look at many Northeast Ohio offices.

How have area businesses adapted to remote work?

Employees who are headed back to the office are likely going to see a different work environment. Many offices are opting for a hybrid approach — employees will work some days from home and others in the office — so not everyone will have a dedicated desk. Instead, many offices will utilize a hoteling approach, with workspaces available to whoever is in the office at the time.

For some companies, the introduction of a work-from-home option has become a recruitment tool. With this comes the challenge of adapting a new onboarding process that can help smoothly transition new employees. It may not be enough to send a new employee their laptop and expect them to figure it out. The process should be made more personal and welcoming, otherwise new employees may not feel they are a part of the team and could look elsewhere for another opportunity.

Working from home has also introduced tradeoffs. For instance, employee hours aren’t just 9-to-5 anymore. Some are working 12 or more hours, or at least are checking communications well beyond office hours because remote technologies have given employees around-the-clock access. However, those technologies have also helped employees manage their lives during working hours, running errands when they’d otherwise be at their desks and getting back to projects when they’re done. Companies are going to need to determine how to foster a positive work/life balance that doesn’t burn out employees, but also ensures clients are receiving the same level of customer service.

How have leaders adapted to these changes?

Communication technology has enabled leaders to stay connected and engaged with remote employees in myriad ways. Leaders are able to check in with their employees or meet with them virtually at more convenient times, keeping employees engaged and in the know. Managers who are accustomed to in-person interaction with their teams, however, may have to adjust their management style. One way to help this adjustment could be offering education and training on managing virtual teams.

Hybrid work arrangements can open a company’s pool of candidates. Pre-COVID, if a job required five days in the office, the pool of candidates would be limited by travel time. Making a position remote, full-time or even part-time, can open the opportunity to a larger selection of candidates. But managers should be aware other companies may use this option to pull talent away from their organization, which is why they should stay engaged with their teams.

How has planning changed under these circumstances?

The rise of the COVID Delta variant has renewed the uncertainty companies faced in the previous year, which has complicated planning. To get through this, it may be valuable for companies to have an alternative or flexible plan to ensure productivity through any disruption the market may face. Talk through what-if scenarios, strategies to handle rough waters, and what might be needed from a banking partner to get through those challenges.

Companies should continue to expect the unexpected. If there is one thing to take away from the past two years, it’s the need for flexibility and understanding. When something works, share it with everybody so all can be successful. Don’t fight change. Embrace it. This is the ‘new normal.’ Business leaders must be both nimble and flexible as they find the best way to move their organizations forward in these new realities.

Insights Banking is brought to you by First Federal Lakewood