Now deep in the throes of cocooning and sheltering-in-place, the American workforce is experiencing a shift like never before in our lifetimes. More than ever, organization leadership is faced with current challenges and future trends, as stress on the workforce shifts and grows.
Here are 7 takeaways for leadership in this unique and new work-life environment.
Managing for the stress of “everyone home” life, which will be present and evident during our typical work days, is needed as a precedent for going forward.
As employees and managers, at all levels of organizations, work from home and on video conference calls with one another, the messiness of life is exposed in all its glory. This wonderful, amusing video, from a BBC Interview in 2017 has had over 37 million views, and has surfaced again because it highlights what many of us are experiencing now.
The reality of work is this: we may dress professionally, speak professionally, and think professionally, but children (and pets) can sabotage this façade by storming into the room behind us. And there’s nothing anyone can do but acknowledge that we all, employees and managers, have lives outside the office, and those lives impact the way we work from home.
We’ll need to be sensitive to the ways in which our employees, partners and colleagues deal with this stress – both good and bad.
If pre-meeting conversations were dull and awkward, with people not knowing what to say to one another and not inter-acting, this newfound video-conferencing intimacy, before, during, and even after meetings, is sharing people’s 360 degree lives as never before. We don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s important for every employee, at all levels, to think about people as real human beings with sometimes messy and complicated lives.
The result of removing this thin veil between work and home boundaries is that there’s now room for people, at all levels of the organization, to learn more about one another. Before COVID-19, it was easy to see only one facet of a person – what they exuded at the office or business functions – than to consider what wasn’t being seen, on the other, personal side. It’s quite another matter when we are not only allowed to but almost forced to see our colleagues with all their vulnerability, in their home environment and lives.
We have the opportunity to develop more compassion for one another.
Compassion will help us all get through this difficult, uncertain time, – and that’s needed for everyone, not just leadership. As Kim Scott notes in her recent article, “Workplaces Attuned to the Humanity of Workers,” “it’s not only leaders who need to step up with compassion and candor. If the boss is letting stress get the best of them, take a moment to see them as a human being, stressed like you.” She notes the importance that every employee “check-in” with one another, to see how we’re doing. After all, we’re all in this together now so we need to support one another.
Hopefully, this will continue, even as we come out of this global epidemic. If we all can learn to have more compassion and empathy for one another, up and down the levels of work and management, this can be a win-win for everyone.
Building and strengthening our teams through shared online experiences is possible, more now than ever.
Take, for example, the idea of a shared team experience. Instead of tasking employees with “doing their homework” on their own, planning for shared experiences can help build a shared team engagement. For example, sharing or streaming a video for everyone to watch and then talking about afterwards is a great way to create community. We encourage team leaders to plan new ways to do “team exercises” virtually, which may not require in-person attendance.
Examine our remote work and travel policies for the long term, because they will change permanently and will need to take into account “local situations” around the world.
When travel restrictions ease up, people will want to start traveling again – for meetings, conferences, etc. “The impulse to explore the world is so powerful that it will roar back,” writes Susan Orleans. This is a desire that should be anticipated at the senior leadership level so policies can be considered now.
While the trade show and event industry is pivoting towards digital events, this may be an option for some moving forward, past a COVID-19 world. But nothing will ever take the place of person-to-person meetings and these needed interactions should be anticipated in budgeting for the remainder of 2020.
Maximize, optimize, and exploit all opportunities for employees to learn new skills online, from new technologies to soft skills.
The move to Teams, Zoom, and other video-conferencing platforms shows how quickly employees can learn new technology when necessary. We should build on this insight and momentum and accelerate the trend to remote learning, writes Eric Schmidt, former CEO and executive Chairman of Google. For example, if older workers were held back or stigmatized by the perception that they couldn’t learn new technology, hopefully the new reality of having to learn and, in fact, rising to the challenge should indicate to many employers and employees that learning new skills is possible for individuals of all ages.
Moving forward, savvy leaders will plan for ongoing learning by all employees so that they stay current – or leap ahead of – the market and competition. Now is a good time to research, review, and put together learning programs for a newly defined workforce.
Prepare for workers who thrive in, and may prefer, this new work-life situation which offers greater flexibility.
We, as humans, are typically not comfortable with change. But now that we are all forced to adapt to a new situation (for many), some may end up liking it better than what used to be “normal” work/office life. Or they may want to create a hybrid of sorts, falling back on a work-from-home option or part-time existence in the future.
Leaders at all levels will be preparing for new work environment requests from employees. Working from home may be an expectation, now that it’s clear this is possible for many. Now is a good time to figure out how that might work when it comes to new hires and job descriptions and much, much more.
Leaders can rely on Pendolino Group, as a Human Resources outsourcing company, to help create new processes, based on these new realities, moving forward. It’s important to see how California HR services will meet new challenges and help with these changes in “real time.”
If you’re not sure how COVID-19 will affect your future workforce, contact us at the Pendolino Group. We’re excited to help you move into the new reality.