Employee Expectations, Experiences and the Post-Pandemic Discussions About Time


When it comes to human resources practices and procedures in the workplace, time has been and always will be important. In many cases, it’s everything in HR.

The notion of time runs rampant through HR and at work—but I’m not sure we talk about its true implications enough.

For me, there are days when it gets to be eight o’clock at night and I find myself thinking, “gosh, I wish there were more hours in this day for me to get things done.”  When I was young and wishing to be older, I remember my dad telling me to be careful what I wished for, as the days would pass by faster as I got older. He couldn’t have been more correct!

Something I have learned about myself over my career is that I am not a morning person. I have tried to be, but my productivity is just not always there in the morning. Now, get to 11 p.m., or even midnight during any given day and ideas are often flowing and running rampant in my head. There have been many instances when I will have an idea and sit down to write into the wee hours of the morning, and I do so happily. It’s simply when I do my best work, and always has been! I am fortunate to work for a company that embraces flexibility based on individual levels of productivity.

Time can be a funny thing. Sometimes it moves fast, sometimes it moves slowly, and sometimes we don’t realize it is passing by at all. Everyone experiences time passing differently based on age, activity, and many other unique and personal factors.

And then there’s the concept of time when it comes to work. Sure, employees clock in and out, they change their schedules, they request days off. There are time management and time-sucking activities on the job. There’s flex time, overtime, FMLA time, mandated break time, meeting time, jury duty time…you get the point.

The importance of time has changed based on employee expectations and experiences, especially in the post-pandemic world of work. Many once on-site turned remote employees have realized the value of their time during this disruption, and what it means to them. People have changed, social constructs have changed, and what employees prioritize in their lives—and at work, might have changed as well. This leads to a call to action for HR professionals—one that should not be delayed. Now is a prime opportunity for organizations to ensure that they stay in touch with what their employees are seeking at work in terms of their time and productivity.

How do we do that?

In HR, we often discuss how a personalized employee experience is what many are seeking in today’s work environment. It’s also what most forward-thinking employers are aiming to provide. One often omitted topic employers should focus on in discussions with employees is the idea of time and what it means to individuals on a personal level, especially since there has been so much change and workplace disruption. A good practice would be to include this topic in a candid discussion as part of the onboarding process, so expectations are set right from the beginning. Having this dialogue can also serve to build trust amongst employees, the organization, and management.

Simply put, taking the time to talk about time shows that the company cares about the new employee on an individual level. These personal touches matter and can make the onboarding experience a memorable one setting the stage for the days and months ahead in the employee lifecycle.

But the same holds true for tenured employees. Things have shifted, and with that shift what was once preferred or routine for someone’s work schedule may no longer be feasible for them in this changed environment. Again, this is where HR needs to focus on prioritizing individualized communication with employees to ensure that sentiments are known, and two-way messages are received. This also presents a learning and development opportunity for HR to bring to people managers, highlighting the importance and regular cadence of one on one discussions with workers.

It’s wise to consider all the particulars when it comes to return-to-the-office mandates for employees that have been working remotely for upwards of a year and a half. For those required to commute once again after a long hiatus, the loss of time may seem prominent while the reboarding period occurs, and new routines are created. Allowing some flexibility with employees during this time when appropriate will show organizational empathy and commitment to life-work balance.

Whenever it is possible, allowing employees to be creative and work when they feel creative makes good business sense from an employee experience perspective and productivity standpoint. If you have hourly workers who prefer to work later hours, try to accommodate them. The same goes for early risers. When we discuss workplace flexibility, providing these choices also falls under that purview.

Simply discussing time with workers beyond normal constructs is a proactive approach and works to further good company messaging and managerial communication. So, don’t delay in taking the time to talk time with employees in this ever-evolving work environment.


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