Leveraging a Professional Coach to Navigate Hybrid Work Challenges
The “new normal” of work is always changing, especially today in a world of remote and hybrid workplaces and shifting expectations from managers and employers. While hybrid work granted new levels of flexibility to employers—especially working parents and women—it also exacerbated personal divides among management and derailed the common routes to advancement and promotion.
In response to these challenges, the demand for professional coaching has grown. This process partners a professional with a trained coach to think creatively through problems and ideally enables the client to maximize their potential and overcome issues.
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According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Global Coaching Study 2023, there has been a 54 percent increase in global coach practitioners between 2019 and 2022. Business coaching (including leadership, executive, business/organization, and small business coaching) is the primary area of focus among the coaches surveyed, and clients aged between 35 and 44 years (37 percent) were most likely to receive coaching services. Coaching isn’t limited to business challenges, though, and it can relate to personal goals and motivations as well by providing actionable strategies that emphasize action, accountability, and solutions.
Security Management connected with Carollyne Conlinn, MBA, MPH, ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC), founding partner of Essential Impact Coaching, to learn more about some of the challenges she is seeing professionals encounter today around remote work, blurred lines between home and work life, advancement, and where coaching can help.
The exchange below has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Security Management. What are current trends within the workforce affecting professional parents?
Carollyne Conlinn. The choice between remote or hybrid work presents a challenge for everyone. For parents, it requires them to redesign the meaning of work and home, as boundaries are more fluid. There is a need for more flexible childcare options that can be accessed at different times of the day or week rather than on a predetermined schedule. A coach can work with parents to build creative solutions to the increased challenges of changing work requirements.
SM. How has the flexibility of remote or hybrid work changed daily life and capabilities of working parents?
Conlinn. The flexibility of remote and hybrid work has required parents to share the workload of parenting and manage household requirements more equally. In addition to this, commute time has been reduced, which adds to available family time for engagement with a child’s schoolwork or more involvement in extracurricular activities.
However, with a decrease in time for parents to decompress from stressful work situations before interacting with family, they are more likely to carry work-related stress into the family dynamic. Because of this, many parents are feeling exhausted at a new level. A coach can support parents to pay attention to their own stress management, through customized self-care strategies.
SM. How has this flexibility paid off for employers?
Conlinn. My experience is with managers who are personally facing these same challenges as their employees. The more common forms of motivating and tracking employees during in-person meetings and casual hallway interactions—when there is time to connect and read body language—have been removed. There may be an assumption that employees are more available, whereas in fact employees may require firmer boundaries to demarcate the end of the workday and scheduled breaks. More attractive employment packages to accommodate flexible work schedules, parental leave, and access to mental health support can reach a wider selection of qualified employees that does not depend on geographic location.
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The shift to a permanent hybrid work model also offers clear benefits for employers. Enabling employees to maintain a work–life balance also enhances their productivity and performance. My work with TD Bank highlights the company’s commitment to focus on coaching skills for its 700-plus people leaders. TD’s coaching program enhanced employee engagement and eased the unexpected transition to a virtual workplace during COVID-19. Because of this success, the company was recognized as a winner of the 2021 ICF International Prism Award. Now, in 2023, positive employee experience scores continue to grow.
SM. For professionals—particularly women—looking to advance their careers, how can they better negotiate for continued hybrid work or flexible scheduling?
Conlinn. Working with a professional coach can provide the opportunity to get feedback about strategies, explore a deeper understanding of the conditions at play for the employer and build bridges with the negotiator to bring a creative mindset to the discussions related to hybrid and flexible working environments.
SM. What are some common pitfalls in workplace negotiations? How can professionals avoid them?
Conlinn. Some of the most common pitfalls arise from lack of preparation by the candidate—specifically, understanding the employer’s needs and being clear about how an agreement can be reached that most benefits both parties. A coach can offer a “devil’s advocate” perspective to expand the individual’s capacity for retaining their must-have criteria while bringing a flexible attitude to the discussion. The most common holdup is when candidates try to sell themselves and their position, rather than demonstrate how meeting the needs of the employee will also benefit the employer.
SM. What sort of narrative or evidence works best in these discussions and how can professionals—especially young professionals—collect and present it effectively?
Conlinn. Ideally, the negotiations begin with what both parties need and want from the outcome. Being able to see and state both parties’ needs will increase the likelihood of achieving a win-win solution. There are few universal formulae that fit every situation. A coach approach can assist the employee to get clarity about the strengths they bring to an employer and how those strengths will benefit the employer.
SM. For people transitioning from fully remote to hybrid positions, how can they best retain elements of flexibility and balance? What can they try to get out of in-person days to boost their career prospects and skills?
Conlinn. To address the individual’s needs from a remote or hybrid situation, a coach can help the individual to identify their solid boundaries and commit to stating them with clarity. For example, the employer may want a minimum of one to two days a week in person but be flexible about which days. Conversely, the employee may have limitations about availability on certain days.
Building coaching skills as a leadership tool greatly enhances a person’s ability to be more effective in a hybrid/remote work discussion. The results are enhanced interpersonal skills such as setting expectations, listening with empathy, and obtaining clear agreements. These skills will support agreements for themselves and increase their ability to manage others.
Claire Meyer is managing editor of Security Management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her directly at [email protected].
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