The return to the office has arrived. With employers continuing to view the use of physical office space as the best means of fostering meaningful collaboration, they are keen to establish a new set of norms around working patterns, mostly concerning hybrid working. In the first full working week of September 2022, the daily average number of employees in England and Wales working from the office hit its highest level since May 2021.
Yet, that peak of office occupancy was still only 31%, leaving the majority of employees still working from home or outside of the office. The pandemic has caused a permanent shift in work patterns and mindset with many employees having redesigned their working hours and the amount of time they spend inside or outside of the office. For many, seeking meaningful work, balance and a sense of belonging is where employees are now focused.
It has required enormous resilience from employees and steadfast leadership from employers to keep delivering results throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic. The ensuing pressure has caused 82% of leaders to report exhaustion since the start of the pandemic and 41% of employees to consider leaving their jobs, according to a recent Microsoft Corps survey. Consequently, many have been labelling the current moment a “great resignation”, where workers are quitting their jobs at historic rates. In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.2 million people leaving their jobs in June 2022, continuing a trend of resignations that began in 2021. In the UK, 91% of HR leaders expressed concern about employee turnover, according to Gartner.
Whether employees are working from home or from the office, how can businesses ensure that their workforce is engaged, productive, and not looking to move elsewhere?
The answer lies in creating and harnessing a healthy and ‘conscious’ workplace culture. This means building a strong and stable working culture that prioritises wellbeing.
With burnout on the rise – and two-thirds of full-time employees saying they have experienced burnout at some point in their careers – a conscious culture makes sure that high-pressure environments are not governed by a “push through” mentality, which encourages employees to put their own feelings aside in service of the rapidly escalating pace of their work. Instead, a thriving workplace culture takes a proactive approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing, allowing employees to effectively balance workloads and encouraging everyone to work together, connected by a common purpose. It’s this sense of balance, inclusion and work that matters that leads people to feel mentally well.
The latest figures reflect these concerns. A Mind Share Partners survey found that only 41% of respondents felt mental health was prioritised at their organisation, while 37% viewed their leaders as advocates for mental health at work. It seems mental health has become an increasingly overlooked responsibility in the workplace, and its governance is becoming a key factor for attracting and retaining talent.
Yet, culture change can only be achieved from the top down, once business leaders foster the self-awareness and consciousness needed to ensure that positive practices are implemented throughout their organisation. Conscious leaders are ultimately the catalyst for creating meaningful and lasting change at work.
By developing empathy to put themselves in their employees’ shoes, conscious leaders deliver personalised guidance depending on the issue at hand, while being self-aware of their emotions and its effects on their management style. They also create an environment of psychological safety, where people can be honest, open, and ultimately, themselves.
Subsequently, conscious leaders foster a sense of belonging in their employees by creating inclusive work environments and community networks that break down biases. They set clear expectations that allow people to take ownership of their work and to feel confident in delivering results, while always challenging their employees to develop new skills to reach their potential. It requires leaders to be aware of themselves and aware of those around them, to understand how to optimise performance.
A psychometric assessment, such as the proprietary method developed by The Conscious Leadership Company, can allow leaders to become conscious of their practices – especially since 57% of leaders say they struggle to provide support to their team. By better understanding leadership habits, stress and trigger points, leaders can create real behavioural change for themselves and create far more effective teams. They can also enhance their own wellbeing.
It is in harnessing ourselves as individuals that conscious leaders can create vibrant workplace cultures that keep employees engaged and productive as they return to the office, without sacrificing their wellbeing in the process.