Let's talk about...COVID-19 & its impacts

Acting as a middleman between employers and candidates, our team is in the forefront of market trends. Since March this year, we have constantly been in touch with professionals from various industries.

With 70% of the employees working from home (STATEC, May 2020), the last months brought some interesting perspectives on management styles. How can we classify these styles and how could the employment relationship evolve on a long-term view?

Having gathered feedback from a variety of Luxembourg-based professionals, we are pleased to share some insights derived from these conversations. For obvious confidentiality reasons, all information is provided on an anonymous basis but we are confident some examples hereby listed will ring a bell with you!

Management styles and its impacts on employees

Needless to say that no team manager could have been prepared for such evolution of our daily professional life. By nature, the suddenness of a major change reveals our personalities.

The impact of management’s reaction to these changing conditions on professionals differs from one company to another, but even more so from one team to another within the same company, providing us with very diversified feedbacks.
While some professionals came to the realization how much they value being part of their team/company , others were faced with disappointment regarding the way management handled this crisis .

Based on the feedback which we received we can roughly distinct 2 management styles when facing the turbulence of these past months:

Control Freak/authoritarian: Several professionals reported they were asked to return to the office even though, in addition to the health risk, there was a significant decrease of professional activity. This led professionals to conclude that management has a lack of trust and has no concerns for the wellbeing of its team members. This could be even more surprising when talking about intellectual professions which can be executed from any place with the same level of quality & quantity. On the other hand, people who were allowed to work from home were overwhelmed with phone and video calls or emails. Another recurring complaint is the way management communicated the measures implemented to deal with the crisis (by email, with very short notice, etc…).
Professionals faced with such disillusion, are inclined to change jobs, sometimes even navigating their career in a different direction.

Understanding/empathic : The majority of feedback which we received regarding management’s reaction during this pandemic was positive. Often more than not managers sincerely cared about the safety of their staff and trusted them to be as productive and efficient as possible throughout these challenging times.  This management style may have put managers’ trust and concerns regarding productivity to the test, but, generally speaking, ultimately their invested trust now results in a team which is more committed than ever.
It looks important to make a clear distinction between an understanding manager who gives freedom to the team and a manager who does not really care about the people. Hence, we saw professionals deciding to change job, and sometimes giving a very different orientation to their careers, after they had the impression that no matter whether they are part of the company or not, nobody will notice.  

As a Manager, finding the good balance between caring and giving freedom is, for sure, a challenge.

Evolution of the employment relationship

In many companies and law firms a culture of presenteeism is manifested. If you do not work long hours and proof to be doing so by being at your desk in the office you are considered as non-productive. We noticed a surprisingly high number of employers who are still communicating – explicitly or not – such a way of thinking to their employees. In our view, this is an old-fashioned approach. As Recruiters, when we are assigned a mission, the job description details all the responsibilities which actually correspond to pretty concrete objectives to reach (i.e. procedures improvement, tailor-made advice meeting clients’ needs, legal risk mitigation, etc…).
What if I can reach the target in 30 hours/week while most of my colleagues need 10 hours more? You would probably ask me to work on additional projects but am I entitled an extra remuneration? Most likely, not. Hence, I would rather leave the office and spend time with my family, my friends, at the gym,…
We foresee a major change in our employment contracts: instead of expressing the weekly working hours and a job title, we could imagine a contract detailing the concrete targets on which we will be assessed at the end of the month/year, no matter how much time we require to reach them.

This idea came to mind by the observation that the majority of professionals work more hours while working at home in order to satisfy the aforementioned culture of presenteeism. In addition to an increase of workload for some of them, this is likely to be the result and perverse effect of the culture of presenteeism: I can no longer show my employer that I am physically present in the office so I will (actually) be working day and night instead and, of course, conscientiously or not, showing it to my boss by, for instance, sending emails at unusual times.

A survey conducted by KPMG Luxembourg in July showed that 72% of 33 financial institutions in Luxembourg are “considering the possibility to pursue, at least partially, the experience of teleworking”. The wording is pretty important here: how come there are still companies, after such crisis that are not willing to further explore this option? These conservative companies should not be surprised if their lack of agility results in a high staff turnover.

We believe teleworking is a sustainable evolution of the labor market, and even more in a country like Luxembourg where almost 50% of the workers come from neighbor countries. Some companies are still hoping to get back to normal and may not have  understood the “new normal”. It is also important to emphasize that some professionals and, surprisingly, mainly young professionals are also expecting this step back. For companies, it looks like a need to keep (an impression of?) control while for individuals this is probably more dealing with a socializing need, reason why young and single professionals are well-represented there.

For obvious tax reasons and the social impact described above, we are not aiming for 100% of employees working full time from home! We do believe though that 1 day/week teleworking is realistic and may have a very positive impact on the staff well-being, a major step towards productivity improvement and talent retention. Hence, it looks like a win-win situation: happy employees creating more value for their companies.

To conclude with a positive note, a survey conducted by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in June 2020 shows that 66% of employers remain confident in the second semester of the year and 13% are even planning to create new jobs.

Stay safe, and keep moving forward!


Published on August 14, 2020