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The World Health Organization may have declared the global pandemic over, but its effects will be around for a long time. Not just from a medical and health perspective, but also from its impact on the world of work. Expectations – those of your clients, customers, employees and managers – have changed, which has significant implications on how you interact with your staff.

If you’re operating with an approach that is still driven by the pre-pandemic environment, then you’re setting yourself (and your people) up to fail. The workplace mindset has changed. Events that have occurred since March 2020 have influenced how people think and function, and these changes are here to stay. If you’re not prepared to adapt how you lead to accommodate these, then you’re going to impair your ability to manage, to get things done through other people.

There are six key shifts that have occurred over the last more than two years that are substantial enough that you cannot overlook them. None of them should be a surprise, but don’t let their simplicity or their prevalence cause you to disregard them. In fact, ignore them at your peril.

Remote and hybrid work is here to stay

The pandemic forced countless organizations to adopt remote work models, and for many, it has proven to be an effective way of maintaining productivity while promoting work-life balance. While many have continued with remote work as a primary option, others have adopted hybrid work models, which offer the flexibility of remote work while still allowing for in-person collaboration. Unless there is an unequivocal reason that requires a full return-to-office model at your company, you will be hard-pressed, not to mention at a competitive disadvantage, if you insist otherwise.

There is an increased use and a comfort with technology

With remote and hybrid work becoming par for the course, the use of technology has become increasingly important. Despite steep learning curves that may have existed in the early months of the pandemic, today almost everyone is conversant in video conferencing, online collaboration and electronic project management tools. Employees are increasingly looking for these types of online aids, so much so that virtual collaboration has become essential. To keep pace, organizations are investing in new tools and technologies to ensure that their teams can be connected and productive, even from a distance.

There is a greater emphasis on mental health and wellness

Not only did the pandemic bring mental health and wellness to the forefront, but it also removed much of the negative stigma that has historically been attached to stress and mental illness. As a result, many organizations are finally recognizing the detrimental effect of constant anxiety and other pressures, and are implementing new programs to support employee mental health and well-being.

From employees’ perspectives, job priorities have shifted

The pandemic intensified already existing stressors, and as a result, employees have shifted their priorities as it relates to their jobs. Many of them are now placing greater importance on job security, work-life balance and flexible working arrangements. And their employers are responding. In addition to remote and hybrid work models, many organizations are beginning to offer more accommodating working arrangements, such as job sharing, compressed workweeks and flexible scheduling.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are in focus

While this shift is not a direct result of the pandemic, it was prompted by events that occurred while the pandemic was underway. A worldwide social justice movement began, driven by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The #MeToo movement took on a life of its own. Closer to home, the discovery of 215 bodies in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops B.C., brought issues of prejudice and discrimination to the forefront. As a result, the need for pluralism and inclusivity was highlighted, both in society as well as in workplaces. Many organizations are now placing a greater emphasis on creating inclusive work environments that promote diversity and belonging.

Agility and adaptability are paramount

The ability to pivot quickly, make decisions in a rapidly changing environment and respond to unexpected challenges were the main characteristics that led to success in the early days of pandemic restrictions. Companies that would have normally taken months or years to make changes had no choice but to do so in a matter of weeks, and sometimes even days. Automation and artificial intelligence were looked to as possible solutions to reduce the need for human contact and to increase efficiency. This will only continue as organizations seek to streamline operations and reduce costs.

These six shifts are so substantial that they are now common expectations. Which means that you need to adapt your leadership approach to take these into account, or put your organization at a competitive disadvantage.

Merge Gupta-Sunderji is a speaker, author, mentor to senior leaders, and the chief executive officer of the leadership development consultancy Turning Managers Into Leaders.

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