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Future of Work Q2 2022

Drawing lessons from the pandemic for a flexible workforce

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Cathal Divilly

Managing Director, The Great Place to Work Institute Ireland

The last couple of years have afforded many workplaces the opportunity to test their culture in a new and exciting setting. Is it possible for workplace cultures to flourish within this remote working litmus test?


When organisations operated with positive intent in the early stages of COVID-19, they got a trust bounce from their people. However, towards the end of 2021, many organisations and people have become fatigued. The exciting challenge we have now is how we forge a new way forward for our organisational culture and team members.

There is no doubt that flexible working options have become a must have for great cultures, but how do we do this? The balance for all workplaces and leaders is performance and wellbeing.

Draw real learnings from the pandemic

It is really important that all organisations understand how productive and effective people have been when working remotely. In addition, what are the positives for our people and do these offset some of the negative aspects of remote working, such as lack of connection, video call fatigue etc? Listen to the data and people and draw the learnings.

Role modelling

For flexible or hybrid working to be embraced, it must be role modelled by leaders within the business. Leaders need to visibly show how they are embracing this new way of working. Leaders must also align with new HR policies in this space and become experts in updated approaches.

There is no doubt that flexible working options have become a must have for great cultures, but how do we do this?

Encourage recovery

At the heart of all organisations is the ambition to build sustained high performance. We must build cultures that not only encourage performance but also allow for people to recover and recharge.

Encourage team members to switch off and take holidays recharge. If there is a meeting overload then set aside days for no meetings, if there is a culture of late emails from leaders to team members then change it. More and more we are seeing great cultures encourage their people to remove their emails of their phones so they are not checking them when they switch off.

Embrace meaningful connections

Flexible working will afford people the potential of a better work and life balance. However, people and effective teams need meaningful connections.

For those days that people are together, lets ensure there are meaningful connections taking place between people. There is no point having people in the office if they are isolated and doing their own singular work. When they are together, organise team sessions. Organise moments for social connections to be built and sustained.

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