(This is the 2nd Part of a two-part special contribution from distinguished guest author Shruthi Bopaiah. Click here to read the first part.)
In the first part, we spoke about 11 major areas that we need to keep an eye on to maximize the effectiveness of your new Work-From-Home setting. We also touched upon the impact this new forced work setting will have on the mental health of employees - increased anxiety, difficulty in setting boundaries between work and home, and the pressure to be available or 'on' all the time.
Let's take a look at what we will all end up building all thanks to the #NewNormal.
The emergence of new competencies
The new way of life brought upon us because of the crisis, calls for equipping ourselves with new skills and behaviors. There is a lot of chatter among employees on public forums about crisis communication, remote leadership, emotional intelligence, leading through change, managing uncertainty, adaptability and more, all need of the hour. An essential competency I think we will all need mindfulness - to be able to be in the here and now - not overthink, over-analyze which may lead to anxiety.
Along with this, the ability to develop clear, focused thought amidst this frustrating and stressful situation will go a long way in helping people function at their optimal levels and may lead to a better life.
How prepared are organizations? How are we, as individuals, preparing ourselves?
While it is about managing work and home for employees during this current crisis, the management has a more significant challenge of handling the business environment.
The organizations are facing challenges of formulating policies around WFH, real and pressing issues of cost-cutting, managing large scale employees remotely, and making tough decisions around possible lay-offs, freeze on bonuses/compensation hikes, and more.
It is a novel situation for organizations; we are at the brink of a shift that can snowball into a dramatic economic and social restructuring, plagued with uncertainties in the present and a crisis that does not have a clear way forward.
The omnipresent questions are, "What will normal look like?" and "How do organizations position themselves for it?"
This uncertain time calls for building new skills at all levels of the workforce. I have put down a few that I think are of paramount importance.
Businesses, and organizations need to act on being resilient. Compounding the challenge, winters will probably bring in a renewed crisis, and therefore the resilience plans must account for this. The use of new digital technologies, sophisticated automation powered by AI, advanced analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. can help reshape the way operations are done to support or augment human decision making.
Institutions that re-invent themselves to make the most of better insight and foresight, as preferences evolve, will disproportionately succeed.
Opportunity - Organizations that can make sense of how businesses can be more productive and drive efficient delivery to customers and push technology adoption to situations where labor is absent.
Organizations need to anticipate widespread policy changes and regulations that can help handle health crises such as this in the future.
This pandemic has provided an opportunity to learn from a plethora of social experiments and tech innovations, ranging from working from home to policy changes. This situation also allows organizations to understand which measures if adopted permanently, will contribute to productivity and employee welfare.
Organizations need to accelerate internal initiatives and pursue new forms of cooperation with customers, suppliers, and partners. They must also re-think the speed and global coordination with which they need to react in the highly interconnected and mobile world.
Be calm and be optimistic while acknowledging the seriousness and uncertainty of the crisis. It is good to accumulate knowledge, revise ideas and actions critically, to evaluate what can be adopted/discarded.
The need of the hour is to be compassionate. As an individual, leader, or as an organization, what the world needs now is compassion, compassion, and more compassion by all.
New Learnings from the #NewNormal
As days progress, we see a positive adoption of the isolation, which was initially difficult to adjust to. Be it working from home, connecting with colleagues and teammates at a slightly more personal level, managing chores, and working more efficiently. People are now working around this to make way for a new style of living.
Tools such as Zoom, Skype, and facilities such as conference calls earlier being used exclusively for official meetings are now increasingly used by people to connect with family, friends, and relatives. Every small act of kindness and courtesy, which was earlier absent, is now making a huge difference. People are now more appreciative of life, of things that were taken for granted before.
Individuals are now working as one whole community - be it to light lamps or clap hands; people are finding oneness. They are sailing through this and fighting against this as a joined force of humankind.
Another significant change or learning that has happened across the world, probably unintentionally, is the practice of empathy. Before COVID-19, empathy was a fanciful word adorning the content of training programs and as a 'good to have' behavior trait. With this crisis, literally at our doorsteps, we are practicing it - understanding the problems faced by others - be it major issues like the loss of jobs for some around us, endangered health for those working closely with the infected, the financial crisis that daily wagers are facing to simpler things like understanding to allow our house-help stay away from work with pay, distribution of food and essentials to the less fortunate ones and even practical actions of wearing a mask and maintaining distance to protect others from the possible exposure to infection.
There is a pay cut faced by the employees in both the private and Government sectors. There are lay-offs, unpaid leaves, no onboarding for those already recruited, and many such instances where people are put at a financial risk.
Unlike at any other period, there are no riots, protests, lawsuits against the organizations or Governments. The common man has accepted the helplessness of others and the repercussions of the crisis, displaying an unbelievable level of empathy. Likewise, the recruiters and managers are equally troubled to be delivering the 'bad news'.
To summarize, the situation can be overwhelming, and this crisis has already seen the worst impact. So, the importance of empathy, compassion, and mental health during such times is very critical. At the end of this, clients and other stakeholders will measure the companies on the compassion meted out, and any slips or delays that happened will be understood and forgotten.
Here are the links to some resources that influenced my thoughts and may interest you as well: