The road to recovery leading beyond the pandemic is fraught with danger – just ask Auckland, Melbourne and Seoul, among others. But in many countries within the Asia Pacific region, life is beginning to again resemble ‘normality’. Commutes are being resumed, offices are reopened or reopening and social gatherings are reentering our diaries.
But these elements of ‘normal’ life don’t mean that things will return to the way they were before ‘social distancing’ became part of everyday conversation.
Things have changed and expectations have shifted. And while many of these changes were forced upon us at uncomfortable speed, a lot of good has come from them. Now, forward-thinking organisations are recognising the opportunity to transform their culture and ways of working to reflect these positive shifts.
Expectations of employees have changed...
While the shift to remote working may have come at us quickly, it’s been a welcome change for many. And some want to make it permanent – a Gartner survey found that 48% of people are likely to work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic.
… and leaders have stepped up
For many leaders, the pandemic has meant facing their toughest leadership challenges. But even as they’ve been called on to make hard decisions – including layoffs and changes to reward that can hit individuals hard – leaders have also shown empathy and compassion like never before. And employees have welcomed these new levels of honesty and availability from their leaders.
But it’s not all smooth sailing
For these silver linings, there are of course many lingering grey clouds. The speedy shift to remote work has put leaders in a tough place, especially as many employees express their preference to continue working remotely. Besides having billions of dollars tied up in leases and other real estate costs, many organisations worry whether all work can be converted into “home work” – and if remote work is stalling creativity and production.
For leaders and employees alike, there have also been increased stresses. Personal safety and wellness aside, the global economic conditions are weighing heavily on people who worry about their job security. With the work/home boundary all but erased, this stress can become all encompassing.
There’s also the need to think about how virtual ways of working will translate to the long term, including how value will be measured and recognition given. Managers will need to find new ways of engaging their people and meeting their individual needs in their individual spaces, without the unifying space of the office.
Three ways to kickstart the (r)evolution
There’s energy from employers and employees alike to change the way we work for good, to make workplace lemonade from this pandemic lemon.
Of course, safety remains paramount and leaders need to continue to talk expressly about when and why offices are reopening and the COVID-safe measures that are in place to lessen the risks of contracting the virus. Beyond that, these three steps can shape the next (r)evolution in your organisation’s ways of working.
- Capture real-time learning via employee listening
We know the workplace has been irrevocably changed, but what does this really mean and how is it being experienced? Leaders need to be asking the questions and listening closely to what their people are telling them. Which jobs have been most affected, and how? What perceived skills and efficacy gaps are arising from new ways of working? Which populations are disconcerted, and which are thriving? Developing a common account of the truth on exactly what lessons the organisation will carry forward will be crucial for maintaining engagement.
- Support your managers to lead new ways of working
Give your managers a robust tool kit to lead populations with a higher proportion of remote work or changed on-site circumstances. In particular, as we’ve come to terms with the new “what” of work – the technical platforms and tools to get work done – there needs to be an increased focus on the behavioural “how” of leading virtually.
- Rethink time management
The pandemic shattered the 9-5 paradigm. Now, open conversations about different time management approaches can both revive productivity and lessen invisible distraction and strain as we settle into increased remote working. As the chaos recedes, employees can continue to have agency over how they “chunk” their days, creating a balance that works for them, across work and life.
To learn more about what it takes to steer your organisation along the road to recovery, join the webinar From Fear to Trust: Leaders Share Their Stories.