Companies and employees have been trying to find their feet in what remains shaky ground, with ongoing uncertainty over work-from-home vs in-office and hybrid approaches. Expectations on the part of senior leaders are often in direct conflict with those of the broader workforce, and the negative impact of this situation is exacerbated due to unarticulated needs, sentiments, and beliefs from all parties. It is necessary for all the stakeholders – leaders and employees – to recognize that the workplace as we know it has been disrupted, and now requires fresh thinking from different vantage points in order to formulate a healthier and clearer framework for the future.
Whether locally or globally, evidence shows most employees want to retain as much of the flexibility, autonomy and self-determination regarding work as possible and they are very reluctant to go back to pre-pandemic rigid work structures. When this feels imposed on them by ‘management’ – a feeling that is common in workplaces everywhere – resentment is the result, as could be witnessed with Apple’s mandate that employees return to the office for 3 days a week. Examples abound, and Apple’s employee predicament is but the latest example of the tug-of-war that continues between leadership and teams across the globe, including in South Africa. It is therefore necessary for everyone to get on the same page with some urgency before continuing down this path of uncertainty and incoherence.