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Why managers need better people skills in the 'new normal' of work

The coronavirus lockdowns may be easing, but we won’t be losing the ‘remote’ part from our working lives just yet.

Sceptics of flexible working have always scoffed at claims we are more productive when working from home. As far as those office-bound hardliners are concerned, it is all a case of wishful thinking.

It appears they are not entirely wrong.

Some people will work more effectively on their own, away from the workplace – but it depends on how long they are away, the kind of work they do, the environment they have at home and their personality, says Jon Williams, co-founder of Sydney-based management consultancy Fifth Frame and former global leader, people and organisation, at PwC.

However, if they have to collaborate, need social interaction, or home life is too noisy and distracting – then home-based work can be tough.

When productivity starts to suffer

All these reports of increased productivity in the early weeks of the pandemic are a product of that “can-do”, “we-are-all-in-this-together” spirit that comes to play in a crisis, explains Williams. People were working very long hours, fuelled by necessity and the fear of losing their jobs.

However, things change when the novelty of crisis has worn off.

“Everyone thought working from home was great for the first four to eight weeks,” says Williams.

“Many of them found they could get on with their tasks because they were not being interrupted and people genuinely found they were more productive.

“Once they got past that initial period, however, the slow degradation of relationships and the lack of those hallway conversations started to impact the productivity of those who have longer-term, more complex, work.

“When you are physically remote, those relationships fade to the point that people stop supporting each other. And, at that point, your productivity starts to suffer.”

“When you are physically remote, those relationships fade to the point that people stop supporting each other.”Jon Williams, Fifth Frame

Will the hybrid model of work be the ‘new normal’? …


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