Our brain is changing all the time, thanks to neuroplasticity. Experiences, feelings, and attention continuously reshape our brain’s wiring. No surprise then, that our brain, and our thinking has also changed as a result of working and living differently through the pandemic.
This upcoming series will explore ‘back to work’ implications for leadership from a neuro perspective. As our changed brains collectively transition into the post-pandemic world, companies have to rethink and respond to shifting expectations around place, purpose and pay.
COVID has led to the cutting of the corporate office umbilical cord for many. The convenience of working from home means a new and compelling reason is required to entice people back to the office. HR policymakers can appeal to our brain’s need to feel control over our surroundings by encouraging at least some days back at corporate HQ. How can the office be redesigned for intentional collaborative working experiences? Google and Facebook purposefully designed their office space as a destination experience with high aesthetic appeal and the kind of perks found at a resort. Such experiences appeal to our brain’s need for increased social status and meaningful social exchange. Rather than forcing people back to the office, offering an enticing, different experience may be the best approach.
We have all spent at least some time during the pandemic, reflecting on what is most important to us in life. If we are going to spend hours every day in front of a screen, we want to be doing engaging and meaningful work. 66% of employees reported being disengaged, before COVID.* Today it is estimated that more than 75% of employees want to remain working from home for at least 2 days per week.** This puts increasing pressure on leaders to build trust and relationship with their people and to understand and support their career goals.
There is an increasing trend for workers with their newly realized freedom to join the ‘digital nomad’ movement or resign completely. In fact ‘The Great Resignation’ is predicted to take place over the next 12 months as employees seek out working arrangements that allow them a more fulfilling and balanced work-life experience. Thousands are packing their bags to work out of smaller towns, or in resort locations offering a lifestyle not possible or affordable in the bigger cities. Many will quit current jobs and reskill thanks to the high accessibility of online courses, making desired career change more possible than ever before. Choice and flexibility is a highly rewarding experience for our brain.
According to research, our socially wired brains value social connection and a sense of belonging similarly to monetary gain. This opens the door for visionary and innovative HR policymakers to rethink the pay structure for employees in an effort to negotiate with, secure, and retain top talent. Should people who choose to stay working from a rural location be given the equivalent salary as their peers traveling to or living in the big cities so they can work in the corporate office? How important is it that employees work the traditional 9 – 5PM office hours? Should a refusal to move back to the long commute to and from the corporate office result in a reduction in pay?
Companies are starting to experiment with ‘work from anywhere’ and ‘unlimited vacation’ policies to meet the new and shifting expectations of employees looking to optimize their living and working experience as opposed to just earn the biggest salary. The stress of prolonged uncertainty over the past 18 months has increased our need for flexibility and more control, two highly rewarding and influential factors in human decision-making.
Understanding the implications of these factors and the impact on the brains of your workforce will be a key differentiator for attracting and retaining top talent. Our next blog will look at remuneration and shifts in thinking since the pandemic.