Once upon a time, we neatly compartmentalized our professional and personal lives. After a year of makeshift offices, kids walking into Zoom meetings and very fuzzy boundaries, there’s no denying that these worlds have blended in the best and worst ways. Under the strain of pandemic pressures, the stability of both worlds became more critical than ever, forcing companies to respond with understanding and acceptance. As a result, the professional landscape pivoted. 

Now, as pressures begin to ease, there is a hum of discussion in corporate communities about what we have learned and whether it will lead to lasting change. It seems apparent that as our world evolves, the company one chooses to be employed by and the reasoning behind it is no longer as simple as it once was. In reality, where you work, who you work with and how much (or if) they care about you impacts every aspect of your life. 

Flexibility and employee support proved essential to success for companies during the past sixteen months. As we arrive at another crossroad that will define the future of company culture (whether it be back to the office, continued remote options or a hybrid), the big question remains: What is the role of employers and how can we provide the most meaningful support?

Back to the office and remote work discussions are often met with a high level of anxiety. As employers, we need to approach this new change with compassion and some degree of flexibility. It can no longer simply be a conversation for company leaders that prioritize a healthy culture or strive to land in the top 10%; it’s the responsibility of all employers to understand that people have been treading the waters of uncertainty for a long time. Many are burnt out and need more support than ever before. 

Throughout the pandemic, the hierarchy of needs shifted. We were all in survival mode, requiring more focus on basic needs like food, safety, and shelter. As we continue to move through that stage and see the unexpected stress, taxing circumstances and tragic loss experienced by so many, it seems apparent the next focus must be on mental and physical health. 

As always, we as leaders must listen to the needs of our community and respond with intention. However, in this new world, we can’t just wait for them to ask; they’re too tired to ask. We must proactively seek to understand the wellness needs of our team members and support them with thoughtful tools that inspire success.

More than ever, company leaders can and should influence the big picture of their employees’ lives. We must anticipate and take steps to fulfill the needs of our team members and personalize our efforts whenever possible. Sending a crystal clear message of wellness support demonstrates your company’s continued dedication to the personal and professional success of your team.

To all of those HR leaders out there, your role matters, possibly more than ever.  It’s time for more listening, it’s time for more compassion, and most of all, it’s time for action. Let’s double down on this potential silver lining and bring about a lasting and meaningful transformation to corporate culture in the US.