New Work Trends HR Leaders Think Are Here to Stay

How have people teams adapted to the changes brought about by the pandemic, and are they here to stay?
Quinten Dol
February 16, 2021
Updated: April 27, 2021
Quinten Dol
February 16, 2021
Updated: April 27, 2021

Spare a thought for your HR or people team leaders. 

While they were handling the same stressors as the rest of us — home-schooling kids, dealing with the work-from-home blues and the many sources of existential dread lurking out in the wider world — they were also helping to shoulder their colleagues’ burdens at the same time. 

Kavita Vora leads people teams at Splicea digital music creation platform that allows artists to sell their sounds, and says her peers across the tech industry are suffering high degrees of burnout right now. 

“A lesson learned from the past year is, when faced with one crisis after another, to make sure we put our oxygen mask on first before helping everyone else with theirs,” she said. This goes against an HR or people leader’s instincts, she said, but it’s the only way to ensure long-term sustainability. 

This emphasis on self-care isn’t the only lesson people and HR team leaders are taking away from the crucible that was 2020. Founded in 2016 by Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global uses AI-driven behavior change technology and digital media to promote healthy choices and prevent burnout among workforces. Head of People Alison Tercek said her biggest takeaway from the last year has been the importance of resilience. 

“As companies and HR leaders look ahead, we’re going to see a much bigger emphasis on the human skills of resilience and stress management,” she said. Going forward, she predicts HR departments will focus on benefits that take a more “holistic” approach to employee well-being. 

In interviews with Built In, Vora and Tercek reflected on the lessons they’ve learned as people team leaders over the last year, and how their experiences will affect their approach going forward. 

 

Kavita Vora, Chief People Officer at Splice

kavita hora
Splice

How has remote work changed the nature of your company’s operations or culture over the last year?

We were already operating in a hybrid world, with two offices in New York and Los Angeles alongside a globally distributed workforce. Migrating our team to a fully remote workforce brought some benefits, such as leveling the playing field and creating equal access to information and communication for remote and in-office employees. It helped create empathy with our office team for the remote experience, which will have long-lasting benefits. 

On the other hand, it’s made creating social connections more challenging, especially for those new employees who have onboarded during the pandemic and haven’t had an opportunity to meet any of their coworkers in person. We’ve been very creative and leaned into our mission and company values to create virtual team-building activities centered around music, creation and self-expression to help strengthen employee connections with each other and the company.

 

Do you think your organization will revert to its pre-pandemic state once your team reenters the office?

We have proven that it is possible to achieve our business objectives in a remote environment. We’ve also heard from employees that while they miss the office and are looking forward to going back one day, they also have enjoyed the flexibility of remote work. Some have moved out of high-cost, office-based locations and have stated that they have no intention of moving back. 

Businesses will need to meet employees where they are and provide a hybrid environment with more flexibility around their work schedules and work location. Employees are asking for more flexibility, empowerment and decision-making power regarding how they can do their best work — and to be an employer of choice, we need to listen.

 

“In 2021, make sure your people and HR teams feel supported themselves before asking them to do the heavy lifting of supporting the rest of the company.”

 

Beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic and remote work, what larger trends are you currently tracking in corporate culture and the nature of people/HR team work?

People teams have spent the last year taking care of everyone else, and across the industry, I’m hearing from my peers that they and their HR teams are experiencing burnout. A lesson learned from the past year is, when faced with one crisis after another, to make sure we put our oxygen mask on first before helping everyone else with theirs. It goes against our people leader instincts since we generally want to take care of everyone else first, but it is the only way to ensure long-term engagement and sustainability. So, in 2021, make sure your people and HR teams feel supported themselves before asking them to do the heavy lifting of supporting the rest of the company.

 

Alison Tercek, Head of People at Thrive Global 

ali tercek
Thrive Global

How has remote work changed the nature of your company’s operations or culture over the last year?

To start, we decided back in March 2020 that every Thrive employee could work remotely as long as they want, which naturally led to major changes in people’s day-to-day lives. But what’s been so inspiring is that, while we are physically separated, our culture and sense of connection to each other has only grown stronger. And like many companies, we’ve learned what is essential and what isn’t. We’ve taken steps to internally cut back on large meetings in order to leave room and time for deep work and rely on ad-hoc calls and quick one-on-ones to solve problems and work through feedback and ideas.

Our weekly all-company meeting has become a vital source of connection for our employees across the country and the world — not only a time to discuss news and priorities but a time to come together, share challenges and find connection and joy. Lately, we’ve been starting each meeting with a different employee sharing their Reset, one of the most popular features in our Thrive App. It’s a 60-second personal glimpse of the people, places, music and quotes that help us recenter.

 

Do you think your organization will revert to its pre-pandemic state once your team reenters the office?

We want to make sure that we are providing our team with the tools and resources that help them do their best work. For some, that means more days working remotely. But we have other team members who crave the routine, quiet and separation that an office provides. We've worked hard to enable that safe return for those who are looking for a full return to the office sooner rather than later.

There won’t be a return to the pre-pandemic status quo — we’ve learned too much to ever go back. We see this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how we work and live. For example, we’ve developed better meeting hygiene with preparation and agenda-setting, tighter communication around priorities and company focus, and a continued emphasis on checking in on our team members to make sure we’re all getting support both at Thrive and outside of work. We’re working with companies around the world to help them not only navigate the “new normal” but create a “better normal” — and we’ll certainly be doing the same at Thrive.

 

“The companies that put resilience and mental health on the front burner and really apply the lessons of the pandemic are going to be the ones that win the future.”

 

Beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic and remote work, what larger trends are you currently tracking in corporate culture and the nature of people/HR team work?

The biggest trend is actually much more than a trend, and that is the importance of resilience. A company is only as resilient as its people. If employees are anxious, reactive and burned out, every business metric — from productivity to attrition to customer success — will be affected. So as companies and HR leaders look ahead, we’re going to see a much bigger emphasis on the human skills of resilience and stress management. It’s especially important because the pandemic has accelerated a mental health crisis that existed long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. The companies that put resilience and mental health on the front burner and really apply the lessons of the pandemic are going to be the ones that win the future.

Already, we’re seeing leaders put these lessons into practice. Historically, company benefits have focused on top-down measures that are rolled out from HR departments and purely address the surface-level of each issue. Now that our homes are our offices and our family are our coworkers, it's more clear to leaders worldwide that the benefits and resources employees need must be holistic and involve long-term behavior change.

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us