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Lockdown, good for bosses… not so good for their staff

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger
Microsoft polled 30,000 people from 31 countries, focusing on office work that has moved online. The Work Trend Index found that 62% of business leaders were personally “thriving” during the pandemic. They were more likely to be earning more and to have been able to take more of their annual leave. But more than half of their employees recorded being overworked, with more than four in 10 planning to leave their jobs.

The bosses experience is very different to that of the employee working out of their bedroom and suffering screen fatigue. This really shouldn’t surprise us. Has it not always been the case! 
Pre pandemic as organisations tried to reduce costs there was a rationalisation of office accommodation. In my organisation like many others very few employees were allowed to routinely work from home due to a combination of lack of confidence in the technology and lack of trust in employees. Outlying offices were closed and staff brought into an HQ bursting at the seams.
Pressure was relived by doing away with offices in favour of open plan and hot desking. But not enough thought was given to the impact on car parking until that is senior managers found themselves queuing to get into an already full car park. A solution was quickly found each senior managers would have their own reserved parking space. Every one else would be on a first come first served bases but just to ensure employees were not tempted to wast company time by queuing whilst waiting for a space to appear a car parking charge was introduced. The new system worked out well for senior managers but not so good for employees forced to use the more expensive public car parks most of which were a 10 to 15 minute walk away from the office.
Does the shift to home working mean bosses are any more out of touch with the realities of the front line? It’s always been a challenge for senior managers to relate to the experience of the front line and judge the mood of the workforce. Firstly there is limited opportunity to interact with front line staff. Secondly information that is feed up the line to senior managers is filtered, no one likes to give the boss bad news.
Bosses have been known to shoot the messenger. Thirdly their own experience of any thing close to the front line is so out of date. Although they probably don’t realise just how out of date. Finally do they care what employees think or are they more concerned with what the Chief Executive, Chair and Board think. They know their plans are unpopular but that’s different to unworkable.The power of the unions not being what it was they rely more on HR and their management team to assess the level of any resistance and what concessions might be needed.
HR will also provide an indicator of the mood of the workforce drawing from the turnover statistics and case examples from recent grievances submitted by employees.
Senior managers certainly don’t like to be accused of being out of touch, they support employee satisfaction surveys but are often disappointed and puzzled by the feedback. In my own case this led to me and the rest of the senior management team agreeing to a program of shadowing front line staff, doing a question and answer road show, and agreeing that one of us would attend the last afternoon of certain training courses to listen to concerns and ideas that had come up during the course.
But hears the thing, we listened and we explained , some would say defended, we felt better for having done it but I am pretty sure those who came thinking we didn’t really understand or appreciate what they experience went away feeling the same way.

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