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Welcome To One Of The Toughest Leadership Challenges Of All Time: Universal Mobility

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at July 20, 2021

How has Covid-19 changed your approach to leadership? 

This sounds so obvious a question it seems silly to ask it. However, sometimes questions like this are best answered when the event is over, after a moment of reflection, or after the heat of the battle.  

More of us worked from home, with the quality and quantity of productivity in 2020 increasing by 2.1%, according to government estimates. Surprisingly this stat trended up and not down as expected. 

Everybody knows this; nearly everybody has experienced it, day in and day out over the last eighteen months. Each day we look at our teams and at our own productivity, lists, and outcomes; we feel pretty good about the job completed. As leaders, well done. We actually got more done, even when we were not together. In fact, 40% of Americans (USA Today June 2021) want to continue working from home. In May of 2021, 83% of CEOs wanted their employees back in the office (Best Practices Institute). So something worked very well for employees in this period. 

Congratulations are due to nearly every leader. However, many employees do not want to return to a pre-Cold-19 world. 

Those two statistics represent tension; as leaders, we need to solve it. The seemingly legacy ideas of the past meet the changing expectations of the present.

At the peak of the Covid-19 recession, 64% of US workers were searching for new jobs. While 25% said, they would quit their job when this was all (hopefully) over. This simple fact changed the world. A world where the idea of universal mobility (it does not matter where you are based geographically to get work done) has been genuinely born because the results have at a macro level have been positive. 

Like all trends, we do not know yet where this will go. However, it is changing for some to look at the employee, employer work relationship. 

We still have high unemployment numbers, according to the Congressional Research Service. In April 2020, the rates of unemployment were higher than any records since 1948. Even as it dramatically dropped by June to 5.8% in 2021, it’s still tough to hire anywhere. Labor turnover rates have barely moved (July 2021). Yet stories like Chipotle and Target using TikTok to recruit people are not uncommon. 

For some, there is a greater sense of choice and perceived worth as mixed modality work models enter the discourse between employees and leaders. Maybe the idea of universal mobility is with us to stay as employees think as much about the pressures to be in the office for a role as the actual work itself.

Even the question of what form of work I want to do may increasingly divide the labor force into those who want a sense of universal mobility (where and how I choose to) vs. those who wish to re-sculpt or return to the pre-Covid-19 world. We have to navigate this new and un-chartered landscape because those leaders who accept and adjust will recruit and retain employees at a rate never seen before. Just ask yourself and your leadership some simple questions:

  • How are your employees thinking about their personal work-life balance, and are they talking with you about it?
  • Have your employees asked, hinted, or suggested different working conditions moving forward?


  • What signs are you seeing that employees are trying to evolve the work environment around them, and are you helping or ignoring those?


  • Which peer companies are you using for comparisons (as your employees will have their own)?


  • Are your leaders, peers, and colleagues asking at a deep enough level what will stop happening after Covid-19, what will continue to occur after Covid-19 and what will be different?


  • How have you talked to your customers about your employee strategies (they care)?


  • What are you telling potential employees about your post-Covid-19 work environment?
  • Have certain groups internally been running different experiments to learn and try?


  • What roles or functions might best suit different varieties of work styles in the new world?


  • How are you going to innovate and create in the new world?


The idea of universal mobility is not new. Yet, the worldwide push for global 5G technologies through companies like Verizon and Vodaphone will speed up the ability for both employees to work from anywhere and employers to look beyond their walls and landscapes to find the most beneficial candidates. 

The potential effect on traditional recruiting, retaining, and motivating workforces has yet to be fully discovered. Potentially it is a reaction to brutal urban commutes. On the other hand, it might be a reaction to the emotional and geographic intensity of the last sixteen-plus months. However, it will not disappear as a factor in how we think about our teams of people in the near future. 

These questions about motivations, collaborative work design, and potentially re-educating us as leaders about this developing new world will gain more and more steam over the seeable future. 

We can’t wait to answer this challenge when the dust settles; it has to be faced now.


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