THE world’s response to the Covid-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working from home has become the new normal.
We have gone from digitising the relationship between firm and customer to digitising the relationship between employer and employee. We have been catapulted forward some five-to-10 years, fast-tracking trends, such as automation, digitalisation, and innovation.
Companies that capitalise on post-Covid opportunities will find themselves in a good place to retain their talent and attract people when the situation stabilises.
Businesses that cannot change will be left behind, exposing their employees to increased risk of financial and physical distress, facing layoffs and closures.
The best way we can equip people to deal with a constantly—and sometimes abruptly—changing environment is to support employees in building a learning mindset.
The quick adoption of new, advanced technology will mean there is a greater need for reskilling and upskilling. It is also likely to lead to an acceleration in the creation of new roles.
Changes in workload have sometimes resulted in an imbalance of resource allocation. We should be thinking about the re-skilling and up-skilling that could help move people from one part of the business to another.
The economic future and the impact of Covid-19 also has a direct impact on sustainability and responsibility, particularly when it comes to youth employment. In the wake of the last financial crisis some countries saw entire generations face a future with far fewer opportunities. Governments are worried that youth unemployment will skyrocket because many jobs impacted by Covid-19 are held by younger people.
The Covid-19 Risk Outlook report published by the World Economic Forum found that 49,3% of senior risk experts believe high levels of structural unemployment, particularly among the young, is the most likely consequence of the pandemic.
Changing leadership and management competencies
The Covid-19 crisis sent shockwaves through industries and economies around the world, but its real impact has been on people. A time of fear and uncertainty has been compounded by a totally new routine—one where everyone who can must work from home. Underpinning it all is leadership. There is no blueprint for what we’re facing and business leaders around the world are changing strategies to keep up.
In tandem with digital skilling and an improved infrastructure, it is necessary that corporate culture and leadership skills focus on empathy and employee wellbeing as transformation and disruptions become the new normal.
Culture of trust, transparency and openness
This period has required us all to be supportive of one another in the face of uncertainty. There is less control and more trust. People are learning how to do work disparately and with far less oversight: learning what works and does not work at home, virtual ways-of-working, and holding virtual meetings that we might have used before—but never to such an extent.
In the middle of social and physical distancing, many of us are actually getting closer. We are building more adaptive teams that can work remotely together. We are more consistently in touch with each other and this has become a time of connection. We are “connected with purpose” and coming together as a community.
The pandemic (and lockdown) is putting pressure on employees in ways that will not only test their wellbeing and private lives, but also society as a whole. The World Health Organisation recently found that 45% of health workers in China are suffering from anxiety, while the prevalence of depression in Ethiopia trebled in April alone. This creates a mandate and an opportunity for us to expand mental health provision, such as counselling.
Many companies will rebalance their priorities, so that resilience (environmental, social, and governance) becomes just as important to their strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.
Working in a more agile way
It is unprecedented to have a large cohort of people, all over the world, start working remotely at once. This has shown how fast people can adapt and demonstrates that they can move faster and act in more agile ways.
Business leaders now have a better sense of what can and cannot be done outside their companies’ traditional processes. They are beginning to appreciate the speed with which their organisations can move.
In short, Covid-19 is forcing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation. Many are finding simpler, less expensive, and faster ways to operate.
All of this points to our innate ability to change.
Any crisis has inherent threats, but also creates opportunities.There is a real opportunity for us to move away from prescribed approaches and standardised solutions. Covid-19 will be a catalyst to reinvent the future of work and create opportunities for companies to look at things differently.
Our ability to recognise and proactively equip our teams with not just physical resources, but skills, mindsets, behaviours and values, will be critical in ensuring that we build back better.—FT.