COVID-19 Silver Linings: How The New World Of Work Can Be A Better Place When The Dust Settles
By Ellen Lovell - April 15, 2020
The exponential growth of COVID-19 and the public health measures taken to control it have affected nearly all aspects of our lives, but especially the social, financial, and occupational ones. It appears we are in the midst of a global paradigm shift, where our focus has to convert from our typical work/home lives to a total re-evaluation of how we operate.
News articles flood our inboxes, televisions, and news feeds and can easily overwhelm us with negativity. However, with inevitable change comes new opportunities. We can create positive experiences by defining our focus, becoming more agile, supporting telecommuting, focusing on collaboration, and staying resilient.
Defining Our Focus
One of the most significant opportunities available to us is taking time to clearly define our focus – personally and organizationally. We can:
1. Focus on ourselves and those around us.
We can take a step back and focus on what is really important to us and where we can make the biggest difference. We can increase our attention on health, safety, balance, and sleep. Perhaps our biggest opportunity is to change our perspective from constantly being preoccupied with social media and superficial aspects of our lives to focusing on the health and well-being of others.
2. Focus on our organizations.
We can (and should) strategize about how we can take care of our people as the most valuable aspect (not asset) of the business. And just as we can shift our personal focus to the well-being of others, many companies are making the health and well-being of their employees a focal point in their decision making. There is less emphasis on policy and financial gain and more focus on how they can support their employees while also finding ways to keep their businesses moving forward.
Putting Agile to Use – For Real
SHRM, LinkedIn, and Forbes discuss agility at length, but it may have been more idealistic than applied in many previous contexts. Use the following suggestions to put Agile principles to work in the current situation:
- Allow for flexibility in work style, goal prioritization, and methods of getting work done; encourage leadership techniques that are collaborative and foster team dialogue.
- Ask for feedback and sense check with others to make sure you’re on the right track.
- Adopt a growth mindset by failing fast and finding alternative solutions.
- Accommodate new working methods such as remote working, virtual meetings, and reprioritizing initiatives rather than continuing to use previously tried and true working styles.
- Reskill workers (e.g., laid off employees or Peace Corps volunteers who were shipped back from projects overseas), repurpose external jobs to internal improvements and investments, and empower employees by focusing on those things which are within their control.
Making Home the New Office
Are there advantages to having employees work from home?
- Telecommuting potentially benefits productivity and flexibility among small businesses that would have otherwise never made it to a remote working situation – such as local tax accounting firms or engineering companies that rely heavily on folks showing up in the office and using desktops or servers without VPN or remote program capabilities. Will working from home become a permanent option? Possibly for many, this newfound flexibility may become easier to adopt at least part-time following the close of Shelter-In-Place orders. Working from a couch with a dog in one’s lap may be more convenient than having to go into the office, and just might encourage optimal productivity with this newfound flexibility.
- This new adaptation may also have long-term benefits for people with disabilities who require remote working options. Having to adapt infrastructure and practices makes it easier for them to successfully complete jobs and increases the likelihood that companies recruit diverse talent with a national pool of applicants instead of a local one.
- The work from home option removes the social norm to separate family from work. The BBC reporter Robert Kelly, whose daughter interrupted him on live television a few years ago, has become a new role-model for understanding the necessities of parenting even when it’s not convenient for work.
Choosing Collaboration Over Competition
There are many benefits to choosing this approach:
- Leaders are having to learn to proactively take time for office hours and open up communication for direct reports – this makes for more intentional conversations and openness.
- Innovations – such as medical breakthroughs in hard times – are bound to appear and forge people ahead. People must come together to achieve common goals.
- New social norms allow people to share their homes and lives through the birth of the virtual happy hour, while new, humorous Zoom backgrounds reveal even more about their personalities and encourage them to keep things light.
Staying Resilient in Times of Transformation
The rise of the resilient workforce: the long sought after idea of “grit” that has inundated Ted Talks and corporate conventions for years is now in full swing. Maintaining optimism and perseverance through difficult situations enables people to focus on what can be achieved rather than focus on what has been lost.
- Stop the bleeding by pausing work efforts that aren’t productive during this time and focusing instead on innovation that could reinvent the business.
- Use setbacks as catalysts for productivity, development, and creativity.
- Learn from past experiences and pivot to be mindfully aware of the opportunities ahead.
Everyone loves a great comeback story. When done correctly, how an organization and its employees respond during this time of stress and uncertainty can end up being a benefit and exhibition of their values and culture that eclipses any kind of temporary loss. We can and will propel past this brief economic downturn into positive productivity that affords long-term benefits to the business in the form of investments in resources, thought leadership, and creativity. Taking this time to pause and evaluate those back-burner tasks to increase productivity, offer more to your customers, and invest in future success should now be mission critical in today’s new world of work.
Seeing The Way Forward
The Perceptyx platform gives you the flexibility to adapt your listening strategy to rapidly changing real time events. Combined with support from our analytics experts, our platform can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s needs, so you can provide the support they need during these uncertain times. Get in touch to see how we can help your organization navigate successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic.