CEO Memo: Returning to the office as a trigger for boards to create a culture that works for everyone

Next week, events will be held around the world to mark International Women’s Day (IWD), anchored around this year’s theme of “breaking prejudice”. It’s a day that helps keep important conversations about equality and diversity on the radar and the Institute of Governance will be launching its own series of Women in Leadership events to add to the discussion and debate.

But this year’s IWD comes as women and men face a major new transition – and a new challenge. As governments remove more layers of COVID-19 restrictions, employers are eager to get their teams back to work. But like age said recently, it’s a “delicate dance” between bosses and often reluctant workers who have spent much of the past two years rearranging their home lives to make their work lives work.

COVID-19 has caused disruption of historic proportions: in addition to the shift to WFH, we have also been studying from home. Organizations can now legally hold their general meetings online or in hybrid form and execute documents electronically. And the stigma has all but evaporated from discussions of mental health, as we all now realize that mental well-being is just as imperative as physical health.

The periods of confinement have also caused a disruption in gender relations, but not for the better, with women generally picking up more than their fair share of school duties from home and household chores, while trying to maintain their own professional lives on. the right path.

This imbalance must be taken into account in the plan for transitioning employees into the office and flexibility must remain at the heart of the workday and the approach of the board and management.

This approach certainly doesn’t mean sacrificing productivity or lowering those KPIs – workers have proven they can remain highly productive under flexible and changing conditions. But many will also miss the camaraderie, idea generation, and collaboration that come with an office environment. It’s just about finding that balance.

With all of these factors in play, how can senior management and boards best manage this latest transition? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Be proactive: Boards must lead from the top, proactively creating the culture that works best for their organization and, most importantly, their employees. Don’t let the next few months pass by without a plan, as you may discover issues (problems) that are too distant later.
  • Keep this flexibility running: There really is no turning back. Forget presenteeism and focus on engagement, results and productivity.
  • Consider a hybrid approach: At Governance Institute, we want our employees to return to the office at least two days a week, which we believe will strike an effective balance for idea generation, discussion and collaboration. Consider which model will work best for your organization.

After two years of major shifts and disruptions, it’s time to ask the question: have the tectonic plates really shifted – or was it just the plates rumbling?

We have seen progress on flexibility, but also setbacks on gender equality.

History has brought us the industrial revolution and a technological revolution and the indicators suggest that we are currently in the midst of a labor revolution – and boards and management have a major role to play at this crucial time in Australia’s history to ensure that this revolution is fair and just for all.