Adjusting to the “New Normal” Way of Working and the Journey Ahead

Dec 19, 2022 | Articles

When it comes to the end of another year, I always recap the most important lessons I learned and how these provided the tools to shape decisions I might make in the future, while also helping me to improve both personally and professionally.

2022 was a year of change for many of us as we returned to a “new normal” way of working. At American Express, we launched a new working model called Amex Flex which is rooted in the philosophy of offering the best of both worlds. Amex Flex has three basic work designations – hybrid, onsite, and fully virtual – with the hybrid category offering the most variety to accommodate business and colleague needs. The business has focused on backing leaders and colleagues as Amex Flex has been introduced, providing resources and tools to enable leaders to lead their teams through the changes, enabling everyone to continue to deliver at their best.

Our new way of working has been well-received by leaders and colleagues alike. According to a survey we conducted earlier this year in the US and the UK, 92% of colleagues say they have the flexibility to best manage their work under Amex Flex, they are able to manage their team effectively for us to deliver results and 97% of colleagues say they can effectively deliver on their work. For me personally, I’ve observed that Amex Flex has helped increase the level of engagement among my team while maintaining productivity levels. After leading teams for more than 25 years, this new way of working has also made me recalibrate and reassess what it means to be a leader in a new working environment. I’ve reflected on three fundamental themes that I have experienced over the last year (which are explored below) but one thing remains clear: leaders continue to have an important role in retaining, developing and enhancing talent – no matter whether this support is delivered virtually or in-person.

Personal connections are as important as they ever were. While the office is no longer the only place where most colleagues can effectively get work done, it still plays an important role in bringing people together. Being together in person drives a number of benefits: spontaneous interactions, generating ideas, fostering new and existing relationships, in-person coaching, mentorship and networking. Our goal is to create the best of both worlds – enabling flexibility while also fostering collaboration – and we need to navigate how we maintain, or in some cases build and rebuild personal connections to support this.

Purpose and culture are also critical for the engagement of colleagues and the future of organizations. This is not a new concept but given the new ways in which we are working, it is important to find common purpose in what we do and a sense of shared culture that is not necessarily built on face-to-face time in the office.

Time matters and so does our ability to disconnect. In a virtual work environment where I often work across time zones, I’ve personally found it difficult to create a separation between work and home – the regular morning commute (which doesn’t necessarily exist anymore) was a great tool to facilitate this. It’s hard to disconnect because we care about our work and want to do a good job. However, the pandemic taught me an important lesson in time and how it is a finite resource which needs to be considered carefully. With this in mind, I’ve developed mechanisms to help me disconnect including setting aside an hour a day for exercise and dedicating more time to my daughter by being present more often when she comes back from school. This has helped both my physical and mental wellbeing as I navigate my new way of working. As leaders, caring about ourselves and role modeling behaviors plays a critical role in the development of others.

These, at least, are three important areas of focus for me as a leader (and personally) as we head into 2023 and as new ways of working become part of our post-pandemic, everyday life.


Julia Lopez

Julia Lopez

is the VP and General Manager Merchant Services Spain and Chair of the American express Payments Europe, with over 25-year experience in Business development and managing large sales Teams. She has won 2 presidents Awards in American Express, is Founded Member of EJECON Spain Women associations and Executive Sponsor of  DEI Council in Spain.  She is also certified in Good Governance by the Spain Institute of Directors (ICA).