CEO of DeskTime—a time tracking and productivity app for businesses and freelancers. He is also an amateur athlete and the father of two children.
Last year was not easy for managers. Bruised and battered by a whirlwind of work trends and economic pressures, executives spent 2022 adapting and responding to rapidly changing realities.
As the Great Resignation reached its crescendo, last year began on a high for workers, trying to leverage this collective movement to regain some work-life balance. We saw trends such as quiet retirements, four-day work weeks, distributed teams, and the increasing use of employee analytics. Some transient, some more resilient, these trends have continued to shake up the post-pandemic view of labor, polarizing individuals, teams and entire companies. In the midst of all this, managers grapple with fluctuating team member priorities and company policies as they scramble to make new ways of working work. It’s no surprise that Gallup found managers are even more likely to burn out than the people they manage.
To get out of the rollercoaster of 2022, managers had to adapt to change, communicate well and be empathetic to their teams. More than ever before. As we head into 2023 there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, which likely means that the skills that mattered last year will be even more important going forward. To get the most out of their teams, managers must provide stability and show leadership as they steer teams into the unknown.
As I see it, to succeed in 2023, managers must do three things:
1. Embrace and process change in a smart way.
Hybrid work can no longer be ignored, artificial intelligence is advancing by leaps and bounds and there is a deluge of increasingly specific and useful tools that are steadily penetrating the day-to-day operations of modern companies. With all of the above becoming a status quo, you will also find yourself under increasing pressure to adopt new ways of working.
Bombarded with opportunities, it is important not to get dragged into change for change’s sake. Yes, hybrid is the future, but you could miss out on the productivity boost it provides if you mismanage the deployment. Switching to hybrid is just the first step, then comes the real work of figuring out how to make the most of it, which will vary from company to company. For example, consider shifting performance metrics from hours in chairs to tasks completed, as this can help create a more flexible and results-oriented work environment better suited to a hybrid way of working.
The same goes for technologies: it’s easy to go along with the hype and introduce new things just because everyone else is doing it. But it’s about the ‘how’. Especially now that we are in the early stages of an AI revolution. I think the best way to avoid being overwhelmed and master all the latest trends and technology is to take a bottom-up approach. This means introducing your team to the latest technologies and letting them decide what really benefits their work.
2. Provide an empathetic work environment.
Burnout is already rampantand the pressure to perform in the midst of economic turbulence is sure to exacerbate it. Since the pandemic, the topic of workplace mental health has received a lot of attention, particularly as it has been on the decline due to stress, isolation (an unfortunate but common side effect of distributed teams) and job insecurity.
One way to counteract these negative effects is to cultivate an empathetic work environment, where support and understanding are freely given and received. Acknowledging each employee’s unique trials and tribulations and finding ways to alleviate them – or at least not exacerbate them – can help create a more positive and productive environment. This can be achieved through various initiatives, such as regular check-ins with team members, providing mental health resources and support, and actively promoting a culture of openness and understanding.
3. Double the transparency in communication and expectations.
In conjunction with the previous point, transparency serves to align teams and allay fears – two much-needed elements from 2023. When team members are kept informed of important decisions and changes, they feel valued and involved in the process . Perhaps more importantly, they feel stability and understand their role in the organization. As with communication, clarity and transparency around tasks and expectations ensure a smooth and predictable workflow in an increasingly turbulent environment, which is invaluable for teams and managers alike.
Transparency also means being open to feedback and suggestions from team members. By creating a culture of open communication and actively seeking input from team members, managers can foster a sense of collaboration and trust within the team. This can lead to higher levels of engagement and productivity as team members feel more involved in the success of the team and the organization as a whole.
For many teams, 2022 has been a hectic year and 2023 will be marked by an attempt to reign supreme in an evolving chaotic business landscape. Managers are in the unenviable position of ushering in a new era of technologies and ways of working while themselves subject to their many uncertainties. Yet it is a unique and unprecedented opportunity. The main themes that permeate all the points above are those of stability and structured progress, and the people who manage to stay poised and forward-looking in rough waters will be worth their weight in gold.