Employers, employees need to update expectations as pandemic continues, expert says

Workers and managers in the COVID-19 era are going to have to manage their expectations as pandemic-related health restrictions show no sign of easing, according to one expert. Getty

Employers and employees should begin updating their expectations for each other now that many are realizing they may be working from home indefinitely, according to one expert.

“We are hearing a lot about the tension. I think businesses were not realizing this was going to be for the long haul,” says Patrick O’Reilly, president and owner of Padraig Coaching & Consulting.

“From an employee perspective: I have to keep it up in this environment for a year. But the managers and leaders in an organization (are) starting to panic, wondering, ‘how can I lead?”

Read more: Most Canadians expect to continue working from home post-pandemic, study finds

In Manitoba, the traditional 9-5 work environment was replaced almost overnight in March, 2020 when the novel coronavirus shuttered many businesses and forced countless others to adopt work-from-home policies.

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“A lot of leaders used to count on seeing their staff in the office and knowing they’re working – to check in on how things are going. They feel very uncomfortable that they’re out of touch with their staff,” O’Reilly says.

“They don’t know what they’re working on or if they’re working like they should.”

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To that end, O’Reilly suggests managers find ways to measure outcomes and outputs, rather than just making sure people are working the right number of hours.

Read more: Work-from-home ‘revolution’ possible as companies adapt to coronavirus measures, says HR expert

Furthermore, the leadership coach says employers are going to need to do more to help people with child care and mental health needs, as the pandemic looks to complicate daily life for the foreseeable future.

The shift has been easier for people like John Castro, who only goes into his office when necessary, and spends the rest of the time working from home.

“At first it was difficult because you have to make some adjustments due to family life. The kids are with us all the time and they’re always hungry. Eventually we got used to it,” says Castro.

He adds a key to that success was straightforward communication and willingness from leadership to be flexible; if he has to take care of his children, management will see if someone else can come in instead.

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Read more: Experts say Canadians permanently working from home should expect salary changes

“We always communicate with our supervisors and they give us time to balance everything. That’s their priority,” Castro says.

“Whenever we have something (to do) they consult us first and then whenever we’re not available, they’re ok with it, they find someone else.”

However both O’Reilly and Castro say there is at least one downside to health restrictions that can’t easily be helped, and may require some creative thinking from management.

“A big part of work in our society is the social side of it. Even if you didn’t love your job, you at least had a friend or two you worked with” O’Reilly says.

“What will we lose in our productivity and culture if we lose the social side, community side of work?”

— With files from Amber McGuckin

Click to play video: 'Staying productive while studying or working from home' Staying productive while studying or working from home
Staying productive while studying or working from home – Aug 17, 2020

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