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One Year Later: What We Have Learned About Remote Work

One Year Later: What We Have Learned About Remote Work

Webcast Details

  • What has changed from a year ago -- and what hasn't -- in the U.S. workplace, when it comes to remote work?
  • How has remote work affected people's wellbeing, burnout and productivity?
  • What does the future of remote working look like, and what issues will organizations, leaders and managers need to address?

Lydia Saad, Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup, and Adam Hickman, Senior Workplace Strategist at Gallup, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. Just over a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. What do coaches, managers and organizational leaders need to know about U.S. employee attitudes and workplace practices about remote work during this time, including how they have changed? What opportunities do coaches have to assist those they coach in navigating a work situation that is still fluid? How can managers engage in conversations and direct practices that facilitate employee productivity as many are returning to the office or want to keep working remotely, regardless of the pandemic's status, or seek a hybrid work situation? What challenges exist in the areas of remote-work burnout, and what is the future of remote working?

Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 9, Episode 13.

If you have a coaching conversation with a leader of some sort, or a policymaker, ... ask, "What is the plan?" ... Even better is ... "Can every employee find themselves within this policy or strategy you've come up with?"

Adam Hickman, 12:32

Self-awareness is a very important part of the puzzle to being successful in the world going forward. And knowing yourself and knowing how you interact best, and that comes back to knowing your strengths.

Lydia Saad, 50:12

Burnout means something completely different for every person that's on your team or that you work with.

Adam Hickman, 31:59

Jim Collison 0:01

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world -- which, by the way, was something I had to do, based on today's topic -- this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 15, 2021.

Jim Collison 0:23

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our live chat room. It's just, the link's right above me there. Click on that; it'll take you to YouTube. The video will restart and then you can sign in with your Google account. Let us know where you're listening from and any questions -- we'll take that from the chat room. If you have questions after the fact -- maybe you've listened to this on the podcast or on YouTube -- you can always send us an email: And don't forget to subscribe there, either on your favorite podcast app or on YouTube. And we'd love to have you as part of the community. Lydia Saad is the Director of U.S. Social Research here at Gallup. And Dr. Adam Hickman is our Senior Workplace Strategist. Lydia and Adam, welcome back to Called to Coach!

Lydia Saad 1:15

Thank you.

Jim Collison 1:16

Good to have you, good to have you guys today. It's hard to believe this, and I think there's a bunch of rolling dates when we think about this -- the year, at least from a United States standpoint. I know some other countries started a little bit earlier than us. And so not trying to minimize the date. But it was just a date that we picked, because for a good chunk of us, COVID and the results of COVID really began around this time in March 2020. And it began to have an, kind of an effect global on us.

Jim Collison 1:47

Lydia, you've been in the center of this from the very beginning, right. I mean, we have done a lot of tracking around this. We have done a lot of, we've asked a lot of questions. As we think about that, that stay-at-home order that happened for a lot. And we, and we do realize there were individuals also that didn't stay home, right. I think sometimes we think everybody came home, and it wasn't the truth. Right? We had essential workers that needed to continue to do that. But what it, what, in a very high level -- now that we're a year into this -- what's changed since the start of this year in March. What have we seen, at least from, from our numbers here at Gallup?

Lydia Saad 2:23

Gosh, yeah, so a year ago, you know, Adam and my world at Gallup really kind of intersected for the first time with this, because Gallup mounted a Panel tracking survey. So we have a Panel of respondents, over 100,000 respondents who started getting emails every day to complete surveys. And we started doing that March 13, which was the day of the national emergency being declared. And so that was a Friday. So it was Friday, Saturday, Sunday, we got a first batch of data. I came in Monday morning, it was March the 16th. And we had data to look at, to answer that question, what has changed?

Lydia Saad 2:58

And that very first weekend, people were still getting oriented. So some of the numbers that weekend, they weren't, you hadn't yet been working from home; their lives were you know, that disrupted. But then we kept nightly tracking. Within 3 more days, everything changed. So the percentage of people working from home, our baseline was already kind of into it. But you know, it was maybe 30%; it jumped to 70%. So within, within a week, all of this happened. The percentage of people who say their, their lives had been disrupted a great deal by the pandemic, just immediately 80%. And people were, you know, we saw worry and anxiety and stress and a lot of emotions. And we can talk about some of those things that persisted. Some of those things have eased over the last year, but we've been, we've been tracking it daily, and then weekly, and now we're kind of on a monthly schedule.

Jim Collison 3:48

Yeah. Adam, what, what would you add to that, as we think about what, you know, what has, what's changed? Or what are you seeing in what you're following?

Adam Hickman 3:57

Yeah, the short answer is "everything." Just the, the space in place in which we operate. But every time I hear that question and I think about it, I always go right to the optics. If you drive around today, what's changed from a year and a half ago to till today? I even think of it through my lens, my kids -- masks are normal, right? You go into in, and there's places where you stand, there's new Plexiglas everywhere. There's, so just, what's, everything's changed. And then if you think of within the context of the workplace, what has changed? Well, a lot! And we could focus in on on what those pieces are. We've got some great points to hit today. But I think the, what's hopeful or gives some stability there in the future, is that the mission and purpose of what we all do hasn't changed. We just had to think about how do we do it differently?

Jim Collison 4:46

Lydia, as we think about some surprising insights, this is, as we think about now, a year into this, and we've, since -- you highlighted, we've been tracking this since the very beginning. By the way, one of my very proudest moments to be at Gallup in this is that we caught this; we're able to do this from the very -- it didn't catch us off guard; we were ready to go, right, just from what you said. So surprising insights that you see coming out of that data a year later?

Lydia Saad 5:12

So, coming way back to the little summary of topics I talked about, what's a bit surprising is we've had, so we ask people how much their life has been disrupted. It was about 78%-80%, back in March a year ago; it's still 78%-80% today saying their life has been disrupted a great deal. But people have adapted to it in certain ways. You know, they're less worried today than they were a year ago. That's not surprising, you know, that initial shock. So we had 60% worried then; we have 43% now. Stress, 60% then; 45% now.

Lydia Saad 5:52

Maybe a little surprising that, the very first month of polling, we asked people about did they experience boredom the day before? It was 47%. So people back in their homes, stuck at home 47%. What would you think would be a year out from the pandemic? Now it's down to 37%. So people are less bored today than they were that first few weeks of the pandemic. Loneliness hasn't changed; it was 23% back then said they felt lonely. It's 23% today. That speaks volumes about the various methods we have to communicate and interact with people, whether we're locked in our homes or not. And people have leveraged those things. Depression: 20% then; 20% today. So there's a lot of stories in there about how people have coped. So there's been a lot of disruption, a lot of change. But there's been a lot of success in managing it.

Jim Collison 6:42

If you were to give some advice to, will primarily listen to coaches -- coaches are who listen to this program. And if you were to look at those numbers and say, you know, they're working with teams, they're working with managers. What are those indicators do you think they should be watching from us, as far as how people are feeling? What would you, what kind of advice would you give them on that? What should they be watching?

Lydia Saad 7:08

Gosh, well, you know, we have, we have specific questions about the workplace. And so there's a lot of interesting things there. You know, when we ask people, "Are you working remotely?" Always, Sometimes, Never. So it was 70% back in March, Always or Sometimes. Today, it's still 58%. But then we say, Well, what would you -- if you, if it was up to you right now, would you, let's say they were all, all social distancing orders were relieved and you could go back to work in school as normal. What would you do right now? And about half still say they would prefer to continue working at home, from home. And we say, Well, why would you prefer to continue working from home? Because you're worried, still worried about catching coronavirus or because you just prefer to work from home?

Lydia Saad 7:58

And what we've seen is, really, the percent who want to continue working from home hasn't changed, but the reasons they're giving us have switched. So it used to be mostly they'd say, "Well, I'd want to continue working from home because I'm still worried about getting sick, even if it were up to me to go back." But now they're mostly saying, "I'd prefer to work from home because I like it."

Lydia Saad 8:19

And so we're watching that very closely. It's kind of ticked up from 18% initially, when more people said, "I'd prefer to continue working just because I wouldn't want to get sick." Now it's more like 26% say, "I want to continue doing this because I prefer it." And so that's something I think a lot of companies and managers and coaches will be paying attention to because for people to feel satisfied about their work in the future, they've tasted something they want to continue. So that, I think that's definitely one to watch.

Jim Collison 8:49

Lydia, are our numbers primarily U.S. numbers, or do we have a global sense of what's happening as well?

Lydia Saad 8:55

Gosh, I can only speak to the U.S. numbers; that's what we're doing in this COVID Panel. Definitely our World Poll has been able to get, you know, it was historically conducted in person. So 2020 was a very rough year, but 2021, we've got about 70 countries in by telephone. And those folks could certainly talk on a different platform about what they're seeing around the world.

Jim Collison 9:18

As, as, do you get a feeling, though -- I've got a feeling sometimes, so as the pandemic has happened to the U.S., it hasn't been exactly the same in other countries, but been very, very similar. Maybe the timelines are different. Maybe there's a little cultural differences to it. But, but would you say very similar, if we, if we pulled data from other countries, answers could be similar, or are you just not comfortable saying that?

Lydia Saad 9:43

Well, some of these are just human -- I would think they would be very similar in terms of the emotions. And, you know, in the, certainly in developed countries, where you have access to internet and Zoom and other technologies and social media, I would think people everywhere are probably leveraging those things to manage their loneliness, their depression, their work. And, you know, so we know there's negatives to the pandemic; we know there's silver linings. And probably a lot of that, I would imagine, is just a human experience. There's some similar, you know, I think what's different obviously in the U.S. is the political nature of a lot of what's happened. It's been very partisan, with mask-wearing or not mask-wearing, and vaccines or not vaccines, and that -- that's a whole nother thing. But --

Jim Collison 10:29

Yeah, yeah. Well, it certainly has been, it's been a little bit of a double whammy for the United States, because we've had, because the elections in November. I am, as you mentioned in, in the stats there, I'm actually one of those -- I'm on the fence about the desire to go back. We can, and I have been, but I'm so productive at home. Like I've set up a little command center for myself, and I can, taking breaks is easy to go up because I can make toast or coffee. It's -- right? I mean, some of those very, very practical things have, have made it easier and maybe more comfortable. I'm, I am not one to be worried about necessarily the, the, the, the actual COVID. Like I don't, I don't worry about that.

Jim Collison 11:14

Adam, as we look deeper into those numbers, I'll ask you the same question: What's been some surprising insight that you've seen in that area of, of remote working and and the impacts of it beyond that, right?

Adam Hickman 11:28

Yes, I was hoping you're coming my way with that question. Because my Competition is like, all right, here we go, Lydia! So I was thinking of the audience here. So if you're a coach, here's some things that -- I'll give you the percent numbers, but it's less that; it's more important on what do you do next? And hopefully, maybe even in your next conversation, work these into your conversation. Because this is not just U.S.-centric; this could go global as much as you want. Because it's, to Lydia's point, it's the human relationship side of things. And trust me, all my Relationship themes are way down low on the bottom. But I'll tell you what would make the biggest difference -- and this comes from clear insights we've seen for our data.

Adam Hickman 12:08

So the first one -- all these are below 50%. I'll just give you that number. If you want specifics, send me a message somehow; I'll let you know what it is. But "My employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to COVID." This is as of December of last year. So we're 3 months deep to that, but it was less than half. "What, what are you doing?" would be the question, because we, we're already almost a year and a half into this. And I think of if you have a, if you have a coaching conversation with a leader of some sort, or a policymaker, or any of that title of that sort, ask, "What is the plan?"

Adam Hickman 12:41

What you'll probably find is there has been a plan crafted, but has it been communicated outward, downward, sideways, publicly available, come back to, within team huddles, within conversations? That might be where a communication breakdown is. Even better is if you could say, "Can every employee find themselves within this policy or strategy you've come up with? Or have we potentially forgotten or missed, right -- not intentionally forgotten -- the opportunity to speak to every single line of individual contributors, team managers, leaders, so on and so forth?" And then the last part is, "How are we going to hold ourselves accountable for this?"

Adam Hickman 13:19

As time progresses, and vaccinations take place globally, I'm sure there are some that will have a different level of comfortability. We see it right now just as you drive around. But if your workplace has deemed a policy or strategy, I would -- those with high Responsibility are going to be the ones that catch it. But it's how do you hold everybody accountable to that same practice across?

Adam Hickman 13:41

The next one's around, "I feel well-prepared to do my job." Again, less than 50% feel that way. So do you know what's expected of you at work? I mean, it's a very fundamental question we ask in our engagement work. And if you do, take it a step forward, I would say that's, that's the "What" piece? So, "Yes, I do." And that's the answer I would give because that's the question you asked. But then, if my manager said, "Well, how you going to do it?" There's the conversation where you as a coach have an opportunity to jump in and help craft and design on how things are going to accomplish because the way in which you did it in the office cannot be the way that you do it here.

Adam Hickman 14:15

I always think of the BBC segment where the child comes bursting in the door. And every time I see my backdrop, I'm just waiting for that to happen to me, so I'll end up in that spot. But just to think of the distractions, the, all of the things that happen there where it's a different work environment. So, Jim, even to your first question, What's changed? Everything has changed. But how you do what you do is the aspect that where I think coaches and managers have a great opportunity to do something. One of those ways is goals, and I hope we'll come down here in a little bit.

Jim Collison 14:45

One of the things, Adam, let me interrupt you for just a second. Ralph says in the chat room, he goes, survey in Switzerland, never again going back to open-floor offices. And we had just spent a bunch of money in our Omaha office to completely gut our third-floor operations building and put an open-floor concept in, and then this happens. Lydia, have we asked questions, or do we know how people feel about going back to an office that's potentially open? And would we have anything to say around that how people are feeling?

Lydia Saad 15:18

Gosh, we haven't gotten to that level of granularity yet. So no, I, that, the simple answer to that one is, "No." I think obviously, it's gonna come down to what happens with these vaccines, how secure people feel interacting, how many people go back. I think what we're seeing in the data is there may be a lot of hybrid going on, which is going to require a lot of coaching to get through -- both coaching the manager for how to supervise it, inspire and motivate and hold accountable those folks at home, and then also how to keep those people engaged. But, so I think, with so many people wanting to maintain remote on some, some level, there may not be everybody crowded into those spaces every day.

Jim Collison 16:02

Yeah, yeah. Do you, do you feel like the, the distraction of the conversation is greater than the actual outcome of what actually happens? In other words, me having to decide, Do I go in today or don't I? becomes a greater distraction than actually just going in? Let me ask both of you that question. Lydia, how do you, how do you respond to that?

Lydia Saad 16:26

Well, it's, I have worked remotely for 20 years. So this has been great for me because I already knew all the advantages of working from home. And now I have all the technology to support it because everybody's doing it. So now we're, we have so much more support for doing it. And --

Jim Collison 16:45

So you're saying your working-from-home experience got better --

Lydia Saad 16:48


Jim Collison 16:49

in the last year? because everybody else was forced to do it? Is that right?

Lydia Saad 16:52

Everyone's forced to do it. And it used to be, we would have conference calls, and everyone was in person and a couple of us that work from home were just on the phone. And so you were a little bit removed. So it was always nice to go in the office and you could actually see everybody, even though you knew you were just as productive at home. But when you had those interactions, you were a little off kilter. But now, not only is everyone on the same playing field, I feel it's so much better than the in-office experience. Because when you're together, you're together, and then when you have work to do, you're alone. And you don't have that --

Lydia Saad 17:26

Now, I know there's a lot of feeling that there's that, those opportunities you miss for elevator conversations and water cooler interactions and stuff that you don't have. So, but on the whole, I would say it's a, I would say it's a plus.

Jim Collison 17:41

OK, Adam, what about you? What do you think, to that?

Adam Hickman 17:45

I mean, echo what Lydia said about, you know, all of the technology blunders that we go through. And when internet goes out, and when your power's out, or things happening -- it, I think it definitely put a heightened awareness around how distracting that can be. But also, I didn't even think about it, Lydia, you, when you mentioned about some of us felt like we were listening in. And now everybody had to listen in; you just picked up on different cues. But you also saw the height of who is comfortable on camera, who wasn't or, you know, backgrounds became a thing. Fatigue over, you know, we -- condensing your, your hours to 45 minutes for meetings, just getting right to the point. And for us that have low Relationship themes, we're like, Great! We just cut to the work, save all the time in the world. I get it done in 20 minutes!

Adam Hickman 18:31

So I, has it changed my approach? No. But we're fortunate enough to work in a company that takes a strengths-based way to things. So for other companies, sure. I'm sure there's changes they've experienced as well. And again, as more people have a, you know, the work-from-home experiment of the universe here as this takes place, all things considered, that they're picking up on what does and doesn't work for their company.

Jim Collison 18:54

Lydia, I'd agree with you. I think we were terrible at our remote work, bringing our remote workers in into meetings before. And when you said "leveled the playing field," I've heard this, that phrase used so often over the last 6 months of, and especially from existing remote workers -- both of you are existing remote workers -- where the meetings now are actually better. I think they're actually more focused as well. Do you think, Lydia, and I'll throw this question to you -- Do you think, for leaders and managers, do you think they're getting a sense for that? And that meetings like have, will have changed the way we conduct them or the way we look to our remote workers in the future? In other words, before, OK, you're just joining on a call, but now really trying to make sure they're a part of the conversation. Do you think that changes? Do we have, do we have anything to say on that?

Lydia Saad 19:47

So I can't speak to data on this, but from my experience within Gallup and some other organizations I'm involved with, I think meetings are becoming more of an art form. Before, they were taken for granted. You go into a meeting, have the meeting, no one's really thinking about it. But meetings are everything now. And so how long they are, like Adam alluded to, we've learned, you know, don't set your meetings for 30 minutes or 60 minutes, because you're going from meeting to meeting, and you need to shorten them give people a break in between.

Lydia Saad 20:15

And then you can't have too many meetings, because otherwise you're in meetings all day. And that's very easy to happen. So there's a lot more mindfulness around When do you need to have a meeting? Who needs to be in the meeting? How long should the meeting be? And a lot, it makes the meetings better. We're all forced to be, become more knowledgeable and mindful about these decisions. So I've, I've, again, just silver lining.

Jim Collison 20:42

Yeah, well, for you guys. Great! What about me? No, no, just kidding. Adam, what would you, what would you add as we think about lessons learned there or the concept of a meeting? And then what would we say?

Adam Hickman 20:56

I think there's two fundamental questions, all right? That sounds so Strategic Thinking Domain! 1) Do you actually need this meeting? And 2) Can you accomplish it a different way? A lot of times the answer is "Yes" and "Yes." Right. And so the "Yes" to "Do we actually need this meeting?" If you said "Yes" to that, then question through, "OK, how are we going to do this the most effective way?" And then if you don't need it, How can you accomplish it? Then do it that way first, because you're going to save a group of people as well.

Adam Hickman 21:24

I -- of the literature I've read recently, it seems like the sweet spot for the most productive meeting is between 4 and 7 people, right. Once you pass 7, it's just, it's a, I don't know what you call it anymore. It's not a meeting; it's just a lot of people talking at once, and you can't get to a consensus of what it is that you're doing. But the -- what I have seen internally at Gallup -- what we're really good at doing -- is I would assume people are thinking through, Do we actually need to have this scheduled 30-minute, or can I see that the light's green and just call Adam and let's just chat through? I do it to Lydia constantly. Do I schedule time? Nah. "Lydia, you got a minute? Great, let's just chat." Take 7, 8 minutes, we're off. We don't need to schedule 30 minutes and do all the setup to it.

Adam Hickman 22:04

The other thing I think it's caused is when a meeting drops into place, and we don't know what it's about, if there's not a succinct purpose to it, I think it's OK to challenge that -- to say what -- "Hey, it sounds great, love to chat. What do you want to talk through today?" And it usually is, "I just wanted to ask a question." Like, "OK, well, let's, we could answer that, just do it in a different way. We don't need a block of time to do that." So in my experience here at Gallup, that's been what I've seen develop the most, and then other leaders and managers just in conversation with it's that they're putting a really fine edge on what's, what's the real purpose of this meeting? And do we need it? And do we have the right people?

Adam Hickman 22:37

And I think the last piece, if you're a coach, plug this into your coaching conversation, says, Who else needs to know what we just discussed? Because if you, if you miss somebody, or somebody was out, the, the last thing they want to do is watch a recorded meeting. Let's all acknowledge that. But can you just sum it up to say, "Hey, Scott missed this meeting. What does he need to know?" "Well, I think he needs to know ____." "OK, write it up and send it, all right? And we don't have to send him to recording."

Jim Collison 23:03

I'd love to see some data on recorded meetings, like, Lydia, are you shaking your head? Are we gonna, in the future? Do we have -- one, Did we ask any questions on that? Or two, would we consider? Because I have always kind of wondered how many people watch record -- you know, we make all these recordings available to people. Do people -- do you have any idea, any insight on that, Lydia?

Lydia Saad 23:23

Yeah, I, you know, we, we did ask one question. We asked people whether virtual -- we asked about is -- Do they feel that being virtual is more or less productive? And I was actually surprised by the larger-than-I-expected percent saying "less. less productive."

Jim Collison 23:44

Virtual was less productive than being in person.

Lydia Saad 23:47

Yeah, so you know, so I, I may be speaking as an N of 1, as they say, of someone who does this, but I think it is a challenge for folks out there, which is very relevant for this audience, because --

Adam Hickman 24:01

I've got it here, Lydia.

Lydia Saad 24:02

We need more support. Oh, yeah. Good.

Adam Hickman 24:03

34% virtual meetings are less effective; 22% virtual meetings are more effective; and 44% say there's no difference.

Jim Collison 24:12

Yeah, and I might fall into the 44%. Because I have found I've lived in a virtual -- even though I'm not a remote worker, I've lived, because of what I do with you, like right now, right? This is a virtual meeting. We just happen to be broadcasting it live to hundreds of people out there. And I got really comfortable with it. And so when, when this happened for me, it wasn't a shift. I was just, instead of sitting in my seat at 1001 Gallup Drive, I was, you know, here, I was here at home doing it. So it was different.

Jim Collison 24:46

Lydia, let me ask you this question too. I've, as I've worked with the coaching community this year, I've seen this phenomenon happen, which I'm calling "the great migration." And lots of folks have changed jobs. Lots of folks lost jobs; they're getting new ones. They're, they're choosing to move on their own, just from the number of email addresses that I've had to track down on people, we know there's great movement. Did we see, in our numbers in asking these questions, do we know why? Do we -- is it dissatisfaction? Is it opportunity? Is it because they had to? Do we have anything, do we have anything, any stats on that?

Lydia Saad 25:24

I can't off the top of my head to give you the percentages. But the things we've asked about that certain percentages are falling into these buckets would certainly be they were furloughed and not brought back. So that's one category. Then there were folks who were let go. And then, you know, then there's much smaller than you might think, but not zero, number of people who left a job because they didn't feel comfortable doing that job anymore. So you've got all of those things.

Lydia Saad 25:52

And then of course, you have people who, again, I'm trying to pull the -- I don't want to miss, this is a very important number, so I don't want to pull the wrong number. But a certain number of parents and disproportionately women who left work to care for kids at home, particularly, you know, if there were kids who had been in daycare and couldn't be or been in school and are home now. And so they left the workforce to come home, and now they're going back in and they may have to go back somewhere else.

Jim Collison 26:20

Yeah, just, I think as I'm, we're speaking to coaches, I get this feeling there's a gigantic pool of people who are in this weird limbo state where they're, they're questioning where they work. They've left already. They're in the process of doing it. And I think, Adam, one of the conversations that comes up in the Facebook groups all the time is, "I had this career before. Now I'm thinking of doing something different." How would you, from a, from a coaching standpoint on what you know, what kind of advice would you give to coaches, Adam, thinking about we now have a renewed pool of people questioning their career choice?

Adam Hickman 27:00

Yeah, I mean, the easy answer is through your strengths. But let's, let's I'm going to go a little further than that. The first question I say, "Well, tell me what you loved about your last job." Right? And you're listening for talent themes coming out of there. "What didn't you like about your job?" Right? And then throw the big one out there: "What do you wish you could have done?" It never fails; I mean, those sound like super easy questions, but I just think of conversations I've had with individuals along the way. The "wish" question's always like, "Gosh, I wish I would have," and say, "Well, how do you bring that to light? Maybe, you know, you don't need to be that exact thing. But in your next career transition, what are aspects of that you can still have that same accomplishment and feeling but in a different line of work?"

Adam Hickman 27:40

Now, it's a, it's a complete one, let's say you work at Gallup as, you know, as something, and you're like, "You know, gosh, I'd really like to be a police officer." Well, that's a different change of things. Right. But there's still the human side of things; there's still the betterment and the mission and purpose of what that's out there for it. But there's, there's a whole slew of things you can unpack through. You've got years of experience in a certain role; whether you liked it or didn't like it, those are clues. Now, if you want to use those and make sense of that experience, then great, we can do that through a strengths way and think through, well, what is next?

Adam Hickman 28:12

I think those that, that have gone through the furlough, just, I'm in the Rust Belt area of the U.S. So we see this, pandemic or not, this happens quite often. And, you know, rediscovering yourself through the lens of what I'm really naturally talented and great at, right, it just has the wellbeing aspect to it, but the engaging aspect of it as well that changes you have, you into a thriving status of your life. So why not?

Jim Collison 28:39

Lydia, based on our numbers, and we know engagement, if folks aren't engaged in their job, whether it's remote or they're in the office, it's, it's problematic. How do you feel like, as you've watched this play out over the course of the year and you were to kind of give us just a temperature of leaders, managers, those kinds of things. What would you say? What kind of advice would you give to coaches about areas they should be asking about, as they're coaching these leaders, executives, managers in an organization? What would they watch?

Lydia Saad 29:14

Gosh, well, I mean, we've seen engagement hold up pretty well. I'm not the expert in engagement. But I know our numbers; they've held up. And what we saw was at the very beginning, when these questions Adam talked about, that your employer has communicated a clear plan; that your supervisor is keeping you informed; and that your employer cares about your wellbeing -- those things were relatively high in, back a year ago. But they've, they've fallen, they've fallen back down. I mean, we're talking about percentage who "strongly agree." You might get a majority agreeing, but it's like being a little pregnant, right? Like, it is, like, you really want, if you're not strongly agreeing that your employer has communicated a clear plan or that your employee cares for your wellbeing, do they really care for your wellbeing? Do you really feel that they care for you?

Lydia Saad 30:02

So when you have, when those figures are down below 50%, which they are now, I think that I would refocus on those things. Are you communicating? Are you expressing concern for how this person is doing -- not just their physical health, but they're balancing all the things people are balancing? I mean, employers need to be asking, "What's going on in your life?" And how is this fitting in? And what, we, you know, it's interesting, the, the percentage who say they're burned -- often burned out at work and other work-related things, people seem to be doing OK. Yet, they are definitely managing disruption at home. And so it has -- something has to give somewhere. And I think the employer can't ignore the part of the person's life that is being disrupted and chaotic or stressful because they're not bringing it to work, because it may filter into work. So they have to kind of care about the whole person.

Jim Collison 31:01

We had, we had -- Adam, before, hold on, let me just say this really quick. We had Dr. Jim Harter on and he had said, to your point, there had been an early rallying effect on engagement, right. Anytime in a crisis -- we saw this in 2008 with the financial crisis as well -- there's a rallying, and, but then it begins to wane. And you mentioned, Lydia, the word "burnout." Adam, I want to throw that to you, because I am hearing that word more and more frequently. And I think for coaches, this is something to be aware of as they're coaching their managers. Because I think the solution to this is in the managers. But Adam, what would you say, as we, as we hear that word more, and maybe it shows up in our numbers more, what would you say about burnout?

Adam Hickman 31:42

Yeah, let's start with context. So pre-COVID, we were, remote workers -- fully remote -- were at about 25%, as we tracked for burnout. Right now, we're at about 29%. So 4% uptick over the time, over that time at COVID. So hasn't gone down; it's, it's gone up. Burnout means something completely different for every person that's on your team or that you work with. We were just in conversation last week with some of our most talented managers at Gallup, where I was asking questions about What do you do with this conversation? Or what do you, how do you even start this conversation? Because it's, it's not a fun one to have. And even the topics of wellbeing, there's some sticky conversations in there that people just -- some people have a perception that that's not your employer's job to stick their nose in there. And some people say, "Well, I care about them, so I do want to engage in that conversation."

Adam Hickman 32:31

Here's what it boils down to: Do you have the courage to have the conversation and do you have the boundaries established on what you can and cannot talk about? So the courage is the willingness to say, "I hear it. I see it. And I feel it. I can tell you're burned out. What are we doing? Or what can I do? Or what can I help offload something so you, maybe if you need to shift some work or -- ?" You know, on our, on our burnout perspective and research we've done, not always does it equate to "take a day." It may be for some, again, individualized, but we also have studied talent long enough to know some people say, "No, I just got to get through this. And then I'll be fine." But it's nice for a manager to, even in a remote setting, for them to see, "Gosh, I can, I can feel it. And I can see it today that you're struggling through. What do I need to do? Who can I get you partnered up with?" or any of those pieces. So that's the courage aspect of it.

Adam Hickman 33:22

And then in the conversation piece, it's Have you had that conversation? If it's a new employee, set expectations, like "When you're feeling burned out, I want to know. Email, text, call, something that just gives me the signal that this is too much. I've got too much on my plate," or whatever the case may be. Because there's some individuals -- hate always picking on me here -- I'll just keep telling you, "Yes." Because I'll figure it out. Do you need it done? We'll get through it. Right. And that comes from Discipline high, you know, high Responsibility and other themes -- we used to say, It's, it's words and numbers, right? We've got 24 numbers throughout the day -- hours -- and we'll figure out the words in between. But I take that as what I owe back. And what's different is when you have a talented manager or a coach that is able to spot those times of burnout, and say, how do you handle that situation?

Jim Collison 34:10

I, I was lamenting, I've had, I've had a long 3 weeks myself, leading up till, to this morning. And I was having a conversation with my wife and she says, "You know, there are things built in that you can take a few days off, right? You know that." She kind of had to remind me. And I'm like, "Yeah, but I'm so engaged. Like I don't, I don't want to. I've got these things I need to do." But I think it's important that we remind all ourselves, and there's a little bit of personal responsibility in that of like seeing that and understanding. But Adam, to your point, I love that. A wellbeing day, managers, is not the answer when someone, when someone comes to you. Like "Oh, well, just take a wellbeing day." I think you need to probe with some more, with some more.

Jim Collison 34:50

Lydia, before we move on, I want to ask you some questions about the future and what we're tracking and some things that we're going to be doing in the future here. Any other final thoughts you would add just to coaches as far as what, what what we've seen in the past and what we know from our numbers -- anything else you'd add?

Lydia Saad 35:08

Gosh, I can't, I can't, can't add to Adam. He's the guru on all this, but I just, you know, you, you just see a lot of need in the data for people to be supported and guided. And you know, it's glass half-full, half-empty, but there's, there's just plenty of, especially, I think, with the remote work train coming, that it, again, these things can't be taken for granted. That just, well, people have been doing it; they're just going to keep doing it. You know, the whole aspect of some people are going to go back to work and some people aren't. And there may be gender differences in that that have effects on career trajectories. And so people think, need to think very carefully about what they're doing, how they're doing it, and how they're taking care of themselves through the process.

Jim Collison 36:03

I think well said. OK, let's look forward a little bit. And I think we had you on last year, I'm gonna say in May, as we talked about how to use Gallup research for coaches. I want to kind of visit that again, but not in the same way. As you look ahead for the next year or maybe two, and we think about, What are we, what do we want to, what are we going to continue researching? Well, what can folks watch in that area? And then, are there any plans to add or change or do anything different in the research areas? As we obviously -- I think -- maybe that's too bold to say the word "obvious," But we are obviously, I think, moving into recovery as opposed to crisis. And that doesn't mean there's not going to be crisis and recovery. But it's a different, it's kind of a, kind of a different format. Any thoughts from your, from your desk, so to speak, of where we're headed in the future, as far as some of the questions we're asking?

Lydia Saad 36:56

Yeah, well, so we, we have been, our tracking pool has been evolving as the pandemic has evolved. So the, the, the, the questions, we've kind of had to just kind of follow as, as quickly as we could, the changes. So we weren't asking about vaccines back in March. As soon as it became clear, you know, that we're getting closer to our vaccine, we started asking about a vaccine. You know, social distancing, we weren't asking about all aspects of that, including masks, right from the get-go, but it's -- picked it up immediately. And so we're, now I imagine we are going to continue, we have a lot of questions about social distancing -- just generically, whether people are isolating themselves or not; whether they're attending public venues or small social gatherings or not. We also ask specifically, whether in the last 24 hours, they went to a store, a pharmacy, a doctor's office, a church, a gym, right? So we hope to be able to see the recovery through that data.

Lydia Saad 38:04

I think where we're going, and I, we'll continue doing that until we hit some point that it looks like it's maxed out. It's funny, we don't know what the baselines are, for these are pre-pandemic; we only started asking this stuff. So we don't know what number of people on a normal day would go to a pharmacy. But when it levels off at some high level, we'll know, OK, maybe we're there. And, but I think the future is going to be about, a lot of it's gonna be about work. And these questions you asked about feeling comfortable going back to a workspace that's configured, you know, as an open floor plan versus cubicle; interacting with the public in your job versus some sort of company that doesn't have public interface. All those things we're gonna probably get into.

Jim Collison 38:53

Adam, when you think about the future, what are you, what would you, or what would be most interesting to you or helpful from this conversation?

Adam Hickman 39:04

So there's, there's two things: engagement and productivity. And usually the productivity is the hot button right now, that -- how do we get the most out of the person throughout? And a couple of conferences we spoke at this past year, remotely and virtually, has been I get productivity is the outcome, but in front of that productivity is engagement. And we have been the company for years -- decades -- talking that if you're gonna get productivity, you got to start with the engagement. And you know, an easy way -- we'll launch an article later this week on this, on start with goals and expectations, right. So much is rooted in our Q12 and in things that we do or if you set great goals, you set expectations of those goals, you revisit those, you coach to them, you discuss them, the productivity is going to follow. But you can't just say, "Hey, be productive."

Adam Hickman 39:54

Some people can internalize that and know exactly what to do with it. Others need to have some conversation. So what's the conversation? It's goals and expectations. We're really starting to dig into this hybrid team effect. We, for, for a year, we all said "remote working." And then on the last, I would say, what, 4 or 5 months, the term "hybrid teams" has come in. And now, and now it's remote and hybrid. We haven't figured out what's the big word to push those two together yet. But it's -- everything Lydia said, right, on the perception aspect of it, how does that have some sort of impact on the workplace and how the work gets done? Because there are going to [be] some that feel, I, you know, I had a vaccination and I can come back, or I haven't had it yet, but I will. So when do I have to come back?

Adam Hickman 40:38

I think what I have seen some leaders do is give a great transition plan for the "what ifs." So for instance, if the whole world's vaccinated, that's Plan A, we're coming back, probably, you know, a certain time period. Plan B, if half, you know, it's half and half and we're coming back then. If not, we stay kind of current. But a part of that keeping your employees informed is the giving them options and foresight into How do I find myself in this? Oh, here are my options, depending on the playing field at the time.

Adam Hickman 41:06

The other piece is, how do you retain people in your company? I have said for quite a while that if you are in a remote world, and you figured out how to be productive, my generation, right, we are not prisoners of pensions to any, in any company. So if, if we can't find ourselves in that role and being as productive as we could be remote, we'll find somewhere else that we can do it. And so mission and purpose has been at an all-time extreme.

Adam Hickman 41:32

The other thing I want to give is some hope, is that we know that over 63% of people want to work, you know, possibly from home before they did before. Lydia said it earlier. The additional part that's hopeful is that about 70% of managers are opening to change their work-from-home policy. Now, the fun part is to ask "Why?" Well, I bet you there's a linkage to productivity is that they have figured out that their most talented employees and other employees have figured out how to be productive from home because we didn't have an option; we still had to get work done. And to see that be a benefit and as a retention or why stay at the workplace, they're leveraging that to their, to their benefit.

Jim Collison 42:14

Lydia, we have talked a lot -- the purpose of this was remote working, but not everybody went, not everybody can work from home. Have we looked at, just as a side note, do we have numbers coming in or have we asked questions of those folks who were in essential working conditions -- healthcare, food service, truck drivers, train drivers, airplane, you know, people who, we still have aircraft flying, not very many. But have we, have we, any data on that? And anything come out of that for those essential workers that we would know of?

Lydia Saad 42:49

Gosh, yeah, you know, one, we've looked across remote and nonremote at engagement and wellbeing and happiness and worry. And for the most part, the in-person workforce has been a little lower on all those things. I mean, it's not a huge difference, but definitely are on the downside of the scale for all those things. So it's a concern. Of course they have, they have, by definition, riskier jobs. So there, there's a good reason for that. It's not necessarily the remote experience versus the nonremote experience; it's the working with, putting yourself at risk, you know, versus not putting yourself at risk. So I don't think those things will last long-term in terms of the remote-nonremote paradigm. But yes, during the pandemic, I think the, those frontline people have had it harder.

Jim Collison 43:46

Yeah. Adam, I think we're going to actually be in a full-scale debate for the next couple years about this. To Ali's question, she says, What should organizations be asking or thinking about related to returning to work when not everyone is returning in full? We alluded to this a little bit earlier in the conversation, thinking about managing hybrid teams, keeping culture intact, etc. Do you not think this is going to be a debate for a while? In other words, I'm not sure anybody's got all the answers on it. Anything you'd add to Ali's question?

Adam Hickman 44:20

Yeah, it's a great question to ask. And yes, it's going to be an ongoing conversation for a while. Where I hope managers, coaches steer the conversation is to Can the objectives of their job be completed off-site? And sometimes you can automatically say, "Yes," because they've done it for a year. But then you add the layer to it is, Can you be productive while doing that? Some, some folks this past year got by by doing the basics of what needed to be done. But those I would say the most -- I was writing up show notes this morning, and I said, The most talented showed up.

Adam Hickman 44:53

I think in that first 6 weeks, you saw the most talented individuals show up in a different way because there was this heightened of engagement, because they were excited and, you know, and thankful they had a job. So they had to come, they came with a different layer to it. And others figured out what was going on -- not that that's bad or wrong or different -- but, you know, can we work with, can we look at the job demands and make sure that this is possible to continue? And how effective are you? Let your performance predict what that comes. But that only is in an organization that is accepting that remote work can happen. Some organizations I still hear from are saying "No, eventually we're all coming back. Because that's, that's the way it's got to be."

Jim Collison 45:32

Lydia, any thoughts? Ralph kind of mentions, What about the flexible work schedule, 9 to 5? I, you know, I'm not sure the 9-to-5 schedule has been a thing for a lot of people for a while, remote or nonremote. Certainly before, I didn't, I wasn't held to a schedule, but many are, but they still, they still are. Any, have we done any research along those lines? And do we, do we think the work, that the idea of having a workday that's defined by hours is pretty much gone? Or do you think that that still hangs on?

Lydia Saad 46:03

I am sure it's not gone. There's all sorts of practical reasons that you need to be working when other people are working, and that you don't want to be working at breakfast or dinner or at night when your kids get home and all that. So I think, I think there's a practicality to the 9 to 5 that's gonna persist. I mean, obviously, the people who work in retail and other things that are open weekends and nights, you know, that's different. But flexibility has always been important to people. And we, we, we've tracked that annually in our -- we have a Works survey of the general public that we do every, every August. And so we ask people their satisfaction with various aspects of their job, flexibility being one of them. And people have generally -- I'll pull up the number on it -- have generally been pretty satisfied with flexibility.

Lydia Saad 46:52

So it's just brand new for companies to be, yeah, so we had 68% as recently as before the pandemic saying they're satisfied with the flexibility their, of their hours. So there may be need to be more flexibility going forward. But it's not a brand new problem or need on the part of workers, and companies seem to have been adapting.

Jim Collison 47:25

OK. Adam, you and I have our next topic -- George gives this to us -- so that we'll have to do this in the next webcast. Because it's, I think there's a lot here, but What have you learned about best practices or techniques for rejuvenating during the workday? I think we need to bring our friend Ryan Wolf in. We did, by the way, George, do a complete series on Resiliency last fall, and we talked about the 5 Elements of Wellbeing. We also have a new wellbeing book that's coming out May 4 that'll be available, kind of focused on the org, but it will have some tips for both organizations where folks are in person and working from home. So some, you might want to watch for the, for that as well.

Jim Collison 48:03

As we kind of conclude our time, I want to ask both of you, Anything that, that I didn't, a question I should have asked you or any final thoughts? Adam, I'm gonna start with you. And we'll end it with Lydia. Adam, any final thoughts on this topic or anything that I missed on it that you want to say?

Adam Hickman 48:20

I love Ralph's question about the 9-to-5 schedule. You know, just this last, I'd say the last month, I've posted 2 questions on LinkedIn that just had an explosion of responses. One was a "work from anywhere" policy. And one was the 4-day work week. The 4-day work week comes around year and over. It's kind of comical. It's every year, I hear something about it. But now more than ever, is, is it possible? So I posed the question, Could you complete your objectives of the week within 4 days? And I'm getting kind of a mixed response of "Really I don't know, maybe." But I also then think back to I don't, I don't know if, I mean, well, how many days, how many days do you work a week versus if you're really prideful of the mission and purpose of the work that you do? I don't even keep count anymore.

Adam Hickman 49:05

So somebody says, "How many days you work with?" I'm, "7!" Because even if I'm not at work, I'm thinking about it or I'm conversing about it or reading about something. So I think we could throw that one out the window. But the scheduling, the 9 to 5, I still think, to Ralph's question, even in the U.S. here, that's gonna be an ongoing conversation for quite a while. But then now you throw in this hybrid and, you know, telecommuting work-from-home things, how much does that make a difference to us? So it's gonna be a long-term debate.

Jim Collison 49:32

I think that timing question is a manager and working that through what their individual of What makes you most productive? Because I know some folks, some people, they need those limits; like they need to be told, "These are my expectations." Certainly I couldn't do the job I'm doing on 9 to 5; it just would never work. Like the expectation is different. I'm chatting with people around the world all day and even sometimes in the middle of the night, right. So that -- but I'm OK with that, that, that, that works for me. Lydia, would you, anything else that I might have missed or you want to add to the conversation that we should have asked?

Lydia Saad 50:09

Oh, I just think -- both of you are saying that self-awareness is a very important part of the puzzle to being successful in the world going forward. And knowing yourself and knowing how you interact best, and that comes back to knowing your strengths. So it's very important work to be helping people through this from a strengths perspective.

Jim Collison 50:31

Yeah. Have you, Lydia, have you, have you had any, like I've had some of the best coaching in my life has happened during the pandemic. Has that, Adam, Lydia, has that happened for you too? Have you gotten some good coaching during this year?

Lydia Saad 50:44

Yeah, I would say Gallup really doubled down on strengths. And so I've been at Gallup for over 20 years, and I've never had more coaching than I've had this year. And it's been great, just for this purpose, and also the whole element of our teams being on Microsoft Teams and having to, you know, kind of maximize productivity in this environment and keeping everyone's energy up to understand each other from a strengths perspective has been fantastic. So I'm, I'm sold!

Jim Collison 51:17

Oh, good! Good -- you're as excited as you can be! Adam, for you?

Adam Hickman 51:21

Same, but more peer-to-peer, right? So not an actual coach, but it's more been, you know, call Lydia, call peers and say, "Hey, what's your feedback on this?" so I can quickly keep moving and we don't need to schedule the official meeting and everything else. So it's been, that's been the last year for me.

Jim Collison 51:36

Adam, you've been actually a good partner for me during this time. I've gotten to know you. I mean, we, you, your office was literally next to mine on campus.

Adam Hickman 51:44

That was fun.

Jim Collison 51:45

But we've spent more, I think we've spent more time together this year than we would have when we were in office. So it's been interesting, like the the, with the paradigm shift, we've actually been more productive together and have been, you know, you just call me now. And, you know, we'll have these conversations. You've been a good friend to me during the pandemic, knowing I'm here, you know, kind of in the man cave, so to speak, here at the Collison house, which has been really, really helpful. And I wouldn't trade those, I wouldn't trade those days for anything. So it's, it's been for me, it's been engaging.

Jim Collison 52:19

Lydia, I love just how you immediately went to strengths on that, and how that's just kind of the cornerstone. You know, we had the Summer of Strengths this year, where we intentionally as an organization did more than we've ever done. And I think a lot of people think of Gallup, it just happens automatically. And it, like any other place, it has to, it has to have an, it has to have somebody running it; it has to have somebody doing it. You have to record or do some things that, that show it's happening and then measure those effects. I think, even in our own engagement numbers, which we just got back -- you know, we take the Q12 too -- we didn't go backwards; we didn't go gigantically forwards. But we held, right, which I think is super important.

Jim Collison 53:03

Adam, Lydia, thanks for joining us today. Appreciate your time with the coaches. I think they will find it very, very helpful. And appreciate your time. You guys hang tight for me just a second.

Jim Collison 53:13

I'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all these resources. And I usually say, "Go to" But for Lydia's work, just go to [also], like we have an amazing, I think, Lydia, very under, underutilized sets, data sets that are out there and pretty easy to find. We went through, I think we talked a little bit about that. There's a whole page just of topics that are available out there that you can say, Hey, based on these topics, you can go here and click this. We are publishing data, new data nearly every day. And so if you haven't been listening to The Gallup Podcast, you should be. If you haven't been following Lydia's work, and really all of our researchers' work, on, head out there as well. And if you want to put the slash and "cliftonstrengths" [], we got lots of resources available for you as well. If you're interested in coaching, master coaching or becoming a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, we can help you with that as well. Send us an email: Follow us in these webcasts. We'll do more -- Adam, I think we have our next one. I've put you on report. We got to do it, we've got, we've got another one coming up. You can follow those: Join us for our 2021 virtual Gallup at Work Summit that's coming up here. We're getting excited. That's going to be here tomorrow, basically, June 8 and 9. Go to to get further details. We'd love to have you join us -- maybe a good 2-day break for you to come in and jump online with us and learn some things as well. Find us on any social platform by searching "CliftonStrengths." And we want to thank you for joining us today. If you found this helpful, we'd ask that you'd share it. And with that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Lydia Saad's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Achiever, Strategic, Responsibility, Input and Learner.

Adam Hickman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Command, Analytical, Competition and Individualization.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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