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A (Partial) Workplace Return: Piecing It All Together

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

If 2020 has felt to you like little more than a series of delays, alarming reports, and false starts, you’re certainly not alone. The year is about half over, and though many businesses have maintained a degree of productivity since the lockdown went into effect, that nationwide feeling of being at a bit of a standstill was difficult to ignore prior to the phased “reopening” of the economy.

On the consumer side of the equation, there’s seemingly been little hesitation. As restaurants, bars, boutiques, and highly in-demand businesses such as salons (and apparently tattoo parlors) are now welcoming customers back inside, those customers are happy to accept the sweeping invitation.

Any hesitation, where it does exist, has arguably been most in evidence throughout the professional sector, though not entirely for reasons of personal safety/health. Yes, plenty of social distancing guidelines remain in effect and will influence office behaviors for some time to come. But the more important factor from a long-term perspective is that of workforce effectiveness in a business environment that’s now more interested in reevaluating “tried and true” methodologies than ever before. We’re talking about remote vs. in-office work in a broad sense, though there is more to the conversation.

A Return and a Potential Shift

Eager to reclaim some of the world as it was prior to this health crisis emerging, business leaders across the country have been putting their long-empty offices to use, with small numbers of employees cautiously returning. But few have done so without carefully considering the past few months. The economy may have slowed down in some ways, but there was enough commerce in play to provide a benchmark for remote work efficiency.

Found in a detailed and illuminating 2019 McKinsey & Company report is a case for “rapid decision and learning cycles”, especially as it pertains to what the report identifies as “agility” in a business or performance management sense of the term. The lockdown has incidentally carved out a need to acknowledge new lessons and fashion updated policies around them. Companies who do so quickly are the ones that will glean subsequent lessons first and respond accordingly.

This model of management is all the more essential in a world where employees are demonstrating a capacity for good work done remotely as well as an ongoing need for mapped-out professional development. It’s now incumbent upon corporate leadership to factor in the variables and challenges that accompany a versatile and dispersed workforce when evaluating efficiency metrics and charting career development models for individual contributors.

This is the first in our series on this topic, one we will be looking to expand upon in the coming weeks. For now, continue thinking on the question of how your own teams have adapted to the challenges this year has presented and what qualities it might have revealed in the process. There is certainly good reason to consider the McKinsey & Company finding regarding management agility – are you sufficiently agile to withstand a major shift within your organizational model?

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