It's been over a year since the start of the pandemic. The world of work has changed as we know it. The "new normal" isn't new anymore. It's just... normal. It's normal not to see managers for days at a time, to be in Zoom meetings all day long, to work from home in your pajamas, or to work flexibly so that you can enjoy a round of golf.
I haven't seen the inside of an office for a year. I haven't seen most of my colleagues for over a year – at least not face-to-face. Some of them I've never even met IRL (in real life). And, as a result, the relationships that I have with them and, in particular, with my manager, have changed irrevocably.
Are Our Relationships With Managers Stronger or Weaker?
In some ways, I feel closer to my co-workers and manager than I did before. After all, we've lived through a pandemic together.
Some of them have even caught COVID – luckily, they've been fine. Some of us have had to juggle work with homeschooling or caregiving responsibilities. Many of us have found the last year a serious mental and emotional strain.
At other times, I feel like my work relationships have become weaker. Sometimes now, if I do have an issue, I simply don't bring it up. It seems silly or bothersome to have to book in a Teams meeting just to chat about the small things – like not knowing how to start a new blog!
I know that my manager wouldn't mind if I did call him up. And yet, going through that rigmarole seems so much more cumbersome than, say, tapping him on the shoulder for a quick catch-up, which is what I used to do when we worked in the office together.
What Do You Want From Your Managers?
As employees, we've had a whole new set of problems to contend with. So have the managers we look to for guidance.
Challenges range from the practical, day-to-day issues of, "My internet is down, so I can't log in for our call," to the more difficult and emotional – such as, "I'm struggling to homeschool and work at the same time," or, "I'm feeling really isolated because I've been shielding for months."
We wanted to hear what you're looking for from your manager in 2021 – and how your needs have changed over the past year. So we asked our friends and followers on social media to give us their top tips.
Interestingly, many people flagged the need for stronger leadership from managers. Facebook friend Ricardo Guereca put it simply: "Authoritative!"
Ruth-Ann Soodeen echoed this sentiment in our Career Community Facebook group, revealing that she wanted a manager "who leads rather than manages." And Twitter follower Arif Maghrib said he needed one who "... can keep us smiling, if not laughing, among worldwide increases in cases of coronavirus."
These comments suggest that it's no longer enough for managers to simply do the basics – organizing and delegating work. They also need to be a motivational and positive force that drives people forward. Something that has no doubt been incredibly difficult to achieve – but more important than ever – over the past year.
Although lots of businesses have been quick to get on board with flexible and virtual working, many are still struggling.
As Janice Mason, who belongs to our Career Community group on Facebook, hinted: "I need my manager to understand the benefits of home working!"
LinkedIn follower Tracy (Guzman) Price echoed this, but explained that being flexible isn't always about the practical elements of work. It's also about providing emotional support to people living through an unpredictable and often scary time.
Tracy wrote: "2020 is gone, and 2021 is hot on its heels! I feel the manager I need right now sees me as a whole person. [Even if you] put politics and racial unrest aside, the pandemic by itself has placed an incredible amount of stress on people. It has changed the way we do business, whether you've gone virtual or remained open and had to wear PPE and stand behind plexiglass... it's different.
"Add in having to deal with customers and clients who have become sad, scared and angry – even the nicest of employees can become frustrated, fed up and exhausted. It's just hard.
"Managers have to be flexible in their style and meet the employees where they are at. That may be different from day-to-day or moment-to-moment."
What do you need from your managers, and how have your needs changed since last year? Are you getting the right support or leadership? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section, below.