This month things are starting to open up and some are talking about the “return to normal”. Is this what we really want though? I personally think many people have started to question whether this was all really just to return to the exact same way we were living before the pandemic. Normal, doesn’t sound great from an environmental, political, social and wellbeing perspective to me. The status quo that reigned before the virus hit globally saw 1 out 3 employees feeling disengaged, the rise of unemployment and the rise of mental health concerns. So, my question to all organisational leaders is, is this really what we want to go back to? Is this the legacy we wish to leave as organisations in the world?
Each organisation has the power to change the world. Bold statement, but think of it, most people my generation are looking to work with or for organisations that stand for something else beyond profit. I want to know that whoever I am helping through contracts, consultancy, and advise is leaving a positive mark in the world. So, it is our turn to create a whole new normal. We must take some of the lessons from this period and truly co-create the way we want to see the world of work.
This period brought a few lessons and broke a few myths:
- Remote Working – working from home ended up being much more possible for all types of roles even call centred based ones. Therefore, we learnt that as long as the technological tools back it up almost any job can have levels of flexibility around location. We also learnt, not everyone wants to work from home, some people thrive best at a separate work location from home and from the everyday physical interaction with others.
- Community and culture go beyond the four walls – human connection is a need that we have seen highlighted during this time. Some organisations have really led in making sure their culture and community still continue to be connected. This can be by visible leadership giving updates and sharing their own lockdown challenges, conference/ video calls, to some organisations doing virtual game nights and pub quizzes and so much more.
- Collaboration – I remember when I used to ask people to meet me for a Zoom call and I would get a blank face, now everyone knows the tool and a few others too. I find that due to the need to juggle things everyone is finding time to focus, keep meetings short and actually rely on collaboration a lot more to get things done. We’ve also seen this from an external community perspective, and it can then be brought into organisations, the sense of citizenship of neighbours helping neighbours. I know where I live there is a whole WhatsApp group that has shared resources and made sure the most vulnerable have support. Can you imagine if you had a similar resource within your organisation where people could look for support and help across the organisation?
- The advantage of the gig economy – the gig economy is sometimes demonised however, for many their side hustles have been absolutely lifesaving at the moment. They have not just been sources of income, but also, they’ve given many purpose, new skills and a whole new mindset. Never underestimate these, and actually they are brilliant skills to bring into your organisation. I believe in the new future there will no longer be “exclusive” contracts and people will be encouraged to share their side hustles within the workplace as a way to pass on their intrapreneurial skills to others.
- Innovation – this has to be top of everyone’s mind, it’s not just about adapting to new circumstances, like many had to do overnight, but really being forward thinking and have this a continual journey.
- Emphasis on wellbeing – if anything the current situation has shown us to slow down, reflect and the need to focus on a more balanced life. Work is not everything, but it is a huge part of what we do on a daily basis, we all want it to be a source of fulfillment not of stress. Therefore, we do have to change the approach of “doing more with less” and focus on creating the right environment to help individuals reach their potential.
- Individual vs collective needs – the tricky balance will be the challenge as we go forward as leaders. Every person needs something different and to truly create an engaging culture we need to be able to flex depending on the person, however, these will still need to be in line with the organisational culture and needs of the team. The best way forward will be for leaders to be able to have the ability to have honest and sometimes difficult conversations with their teams to keep the balance right.
As we continue to learn and grow as leaders, humans and organisations we must be willing to take the risks necessary to create a new way of working and living. We cannot remain still or just go back to the way things were. It’s time to truly embrace a people and value based approach to truly thrive in this new market.