Under pressure: Why bosses are struggling more than ever

With the dark clouds of a global recession gathering and workers enveloped by a sense of dread and job insecurity, it’s easy to overlook the plight of those in the eye of the storm: the big bosses. And new data indicates that leaders around the globe are struggling like never before.

The latest Future Forum Pulse report — a survey of almost 11,000 workers across the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. published in October — found that executives’ sentiment and experience scores had sunk to record lows. Compared to a year ago, execs reported a 15% decline in the working environment, a 20% drop in work-life balance, and a 40% increase in work-related stress and anxiety.

The results shared by Future Forum, Slack’s research consortium on the future of work, were mirrored in workplace culture and recognition firm O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report, which involved 36,000 workers from 20 countries. “We found that leaders are 43% more likely to say that work is interfering with their ability to be happy in other areas of their lives,” said Robert Ordever, the organization’s European managing director. 

The saying that “a happy worker is a productive worker” is particularly relevant to those in a position of power. “When leaders don’t thrive, their employees, teams, and organizations won’t either,” added Ordever.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Glass half-full or half-empty: How to balance a partying culture at work

What was your honest reaction when Sanna Marin, Finland’s prime minister, was scandalized for partying recently? In August, the 36-year-old sparked controversy after leaked videos showed her dancing and drinking with friends. 

Whichever side of the bar you sit on, Marin’s partying raised important questions about how business leaders in all walks of life should conduct themselves when with and without colleagues in a social environment. 

How do employees feel about a boozy boss? And do enforced work events, where people are encouraged to imbibe at a free bar, help or hinder the health of a workplace in a post-pandemic world?

Indeed, in most industries, for decades – if not centuries – socializing with colleagues and attending work drinks has been central to company culture. Away from the workplace, over a glass or two, people can relax, make meaningful memories, share challenges and opportunities – at work and home – and, ultimately, strengthen bonds with coworkers. But is the glass half-full, half-empty, or completely empty in 2022?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in September 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Workers share their worst toxic boss experiences

All the chatter about quiet quitting – namely, doing what a job requires and no more – has provoked deeper discussions about toxic workplace culture and poor management as organizations firm up their hybrid-working strategies.

Some execs have aired concerns that the bring-your-whole-selves-to-work trend has backfired, and in many cases has caused fragmented workforces, while some leaders have taken advantage of the concept to justify their own questionable behavior.

WorkLife spoke to a range of employees from those who consider themselves quiet quitters, to those who have resigned outright, plus those still considering resigning, to find out what prompted them to take their current course of action. Under the condition of anonymity – for fear of career-damaging repercussions – they shared their recent experiences, which highlight the alarming management they have endured. We’ve selected three of the worst accounts.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in September 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

The seven biggest hybrid-working challenges, and how to fix them

The phrase “new normal” is a misnomer, given the state of flux in the business world. Few organizations have been able to normalize operations; who can say they’ve nailed their hybrid working strategy with a straight face?

As Kate Thrumble, executive director of talent at marketing company R/GA London, said: “We are all on a – to use an overused word – ‘journey’ with the post-pandemic way of working. No one has cracked it yet. Even those with the best intentions will have to wait a year or two to understand the impact of today’s decisions.”

However, by matching the right technology solutions with the most pressing hybrid-working challenges, organizations will reach their end destination quicker: a happy, productive, engaged and empowered workforce.

So what exactly are the seven most significant business challenges and the best tech, tools and processes to solve them and speed up progress?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in May 2022 – to continue reading please click HERE.

‘Vulnerability can be your fortress’: How to move away from a command-and-control management approach

The events of the last two years have necessitated the acceleration of a multitude of work-related trends, but the erosion of the command-and-control leadership is arguably the most significant.

A decade ago, “The How Report,” published by LRN, surveyed 16,000 employees in 17 countries and concluded that 97% adhered to a command-and-control model. Four years later, in 2016, the figure in a follow-up survey was 92%. So what is the percentage likely to be in 2022, post-pandemic?

While there is not currently a definitive answer to that puzzler, plenty of other studies indicate a significant shift away from command-and-control leadership.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

‘It’s going to get messy’: How rising generational divides could kill workplace culture

Intergenerational divides are more expansive than ever, and if left unchecked could quickly lead to toxic workplace cultures, experts warn.

Opinions on post-pandemic work values vary wildly across generations, according to a report from London-based global recruitment firm Robert Walters published in early March.

Some 60% of the 4,000 U.K. office workers surveyed reported a rise in “new challenges” when working with teammates from different generations. And 40% of respondents are “annoyed” at the post-pandemic working values and global-minded outlooks of colleagues in other age ranges.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

‘What’s in it for me?’: The employee question that needs answering in any return-to-office playbook

It’s crunch time for hybrid return-to-office plans, again.

After numerous false starts (thanks Delta and Omicron) it looks like a full-scale return to the office, in whatever shape or form that takes, has arrived. As such, a growing number of major organizations have started to show what hybrid model they’re going for.

Last week, Google told staff in the San Francisco Bay Area and several other U.S. locations that it will end its voluntary work-from-home phase in April, in favor of a plan where most employees will spend three days in the office and two working remotely.

Microsoft has also said it will reopen its Washington state and Bay Area offices, and that employees can configure what days they come to the office with their managers. Likewise, with all coronavirus restrictions officially lifted in England, organizations there are being pressured to articulate and activate their return-to-the-office plans.

Trite as it may be, it’s vital to acknowledge that an incredible amount has changed in the world of work since the pandemic struck almost precisely two years ago. And the most significant transformation has been where most of us work.

Models will naturally vary depending on the company, but there are a few essential guidelines that are worthwhile for all employers to take note of. Here’s a breakdown of five key areas employers need to have in their playbook.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in March 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

Unpacking which harmful work practices the pandemic exposed, and which are — hopefully — banished for good

It’s crass to argue “the pandemic has been good for humanity.” It has, though, effectively taken an X-ray of society and highlighted where sickness lies. And, most agree, much remedial work is required to restore total health.

Whether acute areas are treated — or, indeed, treatable — is a matter for incumbent politicians and business leaders. In this article, we turned to the latter cohort to reflect on what harmful work practices were exposed by the coronavirus crisis and how they’ve evolved as a result, for the better.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s WorkLife platform in February 2022 – to continue reading please click here.

Leading for the future: how has the pandemic changed those in charge?

In a world where change is the only constant, leaders must be authentic, tech-savvy and human. They have to prepare for the next crisis by empowering employees so their businesses are more agile and resilient

Be honest, how has the coronavirus pandemic changed you?

For most of us, it is only now – more than 18 months after the pandemic hit and as some semblance of normality returns – that we finally have the headspace to reflect properly on this question, answer it truthfully and inspect the mental scars, having been in survival mode for so very long.

Spare a thought, then, for business leaders who, alongside any personal struggles, have been forced to steer their organisations out of choppy waters while faced with cascades of disruption.

The list includes supply chain problems, geopolitical issues, increased pressure to recruit and retain top talent in the so-called ‘great resignation’ age, and the need to engage with a range of stakeholders to facilitate an accelerated digital transformation. They don’t teach this stuff at business school and many will have felt out of their depth, understandably.

The torrents of chaos have eroded everyone to a degree. And businesses and laggard leaders who have not kept up with the waves of change have, alas, been swept away. The response to Covid-19 necessitated the locking down of people, but paradoxically it opened minds. As a result, in the post-pandemic wash-up, the world looks and feels different. 

For instance, videoconferencing technology’s rapid advancement or adoption has enabled businesses to communicate to colleagues and customers, and somehow brought people closer together. Moreover, there is something thrillingly democratising about everyone having the same-size square box on Zoom, Teams or Google Meet, whether a chief executive or a 21-year old, fresh out of university.

New normal: mindset change required

Cybersecurity and global warming have leapfrogged other concerns for boards and consumers alike. In the afterglow of COP26, ‘ESG strategy’ has become a business buzzword, while actions and transparency speak louder than words. And as many are focused on the environment and governance, is the social element the squeezed middle?

As we tiptoe hopefully out of the worst of the coronavirus crisis, leaders have many important questions to answer. How will hybrid working actually work? What business models need evolving or binning? And, most fundamentally, in a world of constant change, how can greater agility and resilience be achieved?

“The US military phrase VUCA – an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – captures the world in which we now operate,” says Alan Patefield-Smith, chief information officer of insurers Admiral Group. “Everyone has their favourite worry.”

Paul Szumilewicz, programme director for retail in continental Europe at HSBC, bristles at the concept of ‘resilience.’ He says: “What I’ve seen in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, is that ‘resilience’ is overrated. Too often, we have unrealistic expectations of people and particularly leaders.”

Szumilewicz argues that admitting “we don’t know the answer, but we are working on it” shows strength. “There is a positive shift in leaders to accept that being vulnerable makes us more real, more relatable,” he says.

Citing a 2017 Harvard Business Review paper, he continues: “The single biggest factor that triggers oxytocin [a hormone that plays a role in social bonding] in the brain at work is when a leader, manager or colleague shows vulnerability. Resilience is sometimes not as powerful as we think. Being honest about that can have an even more powerful impact.”

Invest in technology but don’t forget people

Simon Finch, supply chain director at Harrods, concedes that “there was a lot of scrambling around to make things work” when the coronavirus crisis and, more recently, Brexit fallout exposed operational weaknesses. He posits that businesses were “obsessed with making supply chains as lean as possible” before Covid, moving items around quickly, with minimal stock and expense. 

“Coronavirus completely screwed up that approach,” says Finch. “From now on, the supply chain must be more about agility, to cope with volatility and uncertainty, and less about being lean. However, that agility has to be fully supported by technology and data insights.” 

Technology alone, though, is not enough. If leaders fail to invest in their people, and that includes themselves, then the much-maligned skills gap will gape even wider. Consider the World Economic Forum estimates that technology will subsume 85m human jobs and 97m new roles will be created in just the next four years. As man, woman and machine work together, leaders should become less robotic and more human.

Indeed, according to Wayne Clarke, founding partner of the Global Growth Institute: “The most essential leadership trait of the 21st century, without a doubt, is empathy. The leaders with the most emotional intelligence will stand out. To better engage staff and improve the employee experience, the most critical question to ask is ‘How do you feel?’”

So go on, be honest.

This article was first published by Raconteur as part of a long-scroll project sponsored by Oliver Wight in November 2021