“We’re all in this together” sing Zac Efron and friends (warning - lowbrow lockdown viewing admission). Well, we are, and we aren’t. The whole world might be affected by Covid19 but individually our experiences of lockdown, isolation and economic uncertainty vary enormously.
Some people are loving lockdown, for a variety of reasons; maybe it’s given them the time to slow down, rest, reflect and step off the hamster wheel. Maybe it’s provided more time to devote to family, pets, fitness or projects in the home. Maybe it’s simply a case of not having a three-hour commute every day. For some, the experience has been the polar opposite, such as those who have been effectively caged with an abusive partner, people who have found it impossible to juggle the demands of a busy job with caring responsibilities, people who have been completely isolated, living alone and missing the daily social interactions with friends, colleagues or customers. When we transition to “the new normal” and resume business-as-far-as-usual, it is unlikely to look anything like the unified, harmonious and triumphant finale of High School Musical.
What we are seeing in businesses and with their workforces at the moment are reactions to the current crisis, and to the enforced change in our daily lives. To say that “the world has changed” may be premature; we are currently having to do things differently, but will they have fundamentally changed when we are able to return to workplaces, whenever that happens? We suspect not: some practices and changes may be sustained, but in the main these will only stick if businesses and leaders – and all of us – work at keeping them. It is entirely possible that, as creatures of habit, we will seek to reinstate our pre-Covid lives as much as possible, and forget the lessons we have learned about more flexible working, about the value of compassion and understanding, the importance of helping others and about what it’s like to have your freedom curtailed.
So if we really are intent on ‘coming back better’ and on maintaining ‘the new normal’, what do we want this to look like and how can we make it happen?
To help you decide what's important in your organisation, we have developed an Engagement Questionnaire designed specifically to provide you insight as to how employees feel about the return, or continuing as they are, what they really need from their manager and peers, and what they want to abandon. Ultimately, this will give you a strong steer to your short and medium-term OD priorities. There are some T&Cs for its use, but we are making no charge to use it.
In addition, we’ve talked to a large number of people - managers, leaders, HR professionals and frontline workers – to identify some of the main themes that are worth keeping in our practices, policies and behaviours.
We're serialising this in a number of thought-pieces over the coming weeks and hope you'll join us as we consider these work-related shifts.
- In the first of the series, we’ll look at inclusive approaches to flexible working.
- Week Two's focus will be resilience-building and business continuity.
- Week Three will highlight the importance of increasing kudos for ‘lower skilled’, frontline and public sector jobs.
- Our employers showing more interest in us as people - as individuals, will be the focus of week Four.
- And last but not least, more tolerance and humanity and less judgement from our managers and leaders will be week Five’s topic.
If you have any questions in the meantime do please get in touch, and pass this along to a colleague so that they can sign up too!