Re-learning work – seize the opportunity to create your own workplace roadmap

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The lens through which we view working arrangements is changing again – the roadmap is set for our transition out of lockdown come 21st June (at the earliest). 

Throughout the pandemic there has been no change to the principles of good governance, but there has been a change in the landscape. And that landscape is set to change again. 

With lockdown easing, the conversation has moved on to how we might re-establish some old ways of working – the ‘pre-COVID landscape’. We can also begin thinking about what we want the future working landscape of organisations to look like and the obstacles to getting there. 

Re-learning work

Humans’ environments shape their development. With working environments largely shifting to virtual working from home, we’ve been forced to become asocial in physical terms. This has resulted in many feeling awkward about the idea of socialising in person again. This article explains some of the impacts of lockdown on our social functions. Reading it made it clear to me that many people are going to have to re-learn how to work again. 

The remarkable adaptability of humans means we should, in theory, be able to slip back into working out of lockdown very quickly. However, this transition will not be seamless if we don’t take time to consider people’s individual needs in returning to normal. 

Since joining thevaluecircle in January, I am yet to meet any of the team in person. All my learning about how we operate is established on the virtual way of working. This is a theme echoed by some of our clients on NHS Trust boards, with many new members taking up their first executive positions during COVID. 

Having never met colleagues in person, and with all meetings held online, I will need a period of adaptation when we are able to return to ‘normal’. I won’t be the only one. To ease anxieties, it’s critical organisations communicate with people to ensure appropriate space and time is created so they can build dynamics between colleagues.

As an example, while I am well-practiced in booking Teams meetings and facilitating sessions online, I will be in the dark come the first session we run in person. But I have the advantage of having mentors to guide me through the first weeks back into my new (and their normal) environments. 

Building relationships in the flesh and integrating into the post-lockdown landscape will take time and support. Whether its NHS staff looking to recover from an undoubtably tough period, or people returning to offices and boardrooms who need to hit the ground running – organisations must help staff re-learn working with supporting their wellbeing and development gaps in mind.

Changing the landscape

Re-learning work with the ‘landscape’ in mind will be important. What will organisations establish as normal working? What should normal working look like? 

Many organisations currently appear focused on ideas of what will work at a system level. A large number will look to maintain much of the virtual work that has been adopted, citing a need to scale back, become more environmentally friendly, and save money. Others, such as Goldman Sachs, are racing back to the office where they believe productivity will be higher, and the working environment better suits their culture.

At thevaluecircle we know that virtual working has been a success, and it has felt anything but remote when working from home. Now is the time to pause and weigh up these successes. A flexible working environment that reflects our values is one to maintain moving forward.

The next questions are: how do we decide what our new landscape looks like? how do we bring our staff and associates with us for a smooth transition? What does our roadmap to the landscape entail? This is an opportunity for all organisations to set out the way they want to work. If done successfully, this could be a catalyst for improved productivity, individual wellbeing, and success. 

With changes on the horizon again, it is easy to take quick decisions without considering how working will evolve and assume business as usual will resume overnight. Leaders should instead look to engage with their staff, many of whom have adapted to lifestyle and working changes. 

Whichever way your organisation decides to go, providing clarity, support, and development about the future direction of work will be vital for a seamless transition. 

Instead of a reactive response, it is time for leaders to seize the opportunity to thoughtfully establish their own landscape for normal working. One that reflects the values of the organisation and the needs of its employees to re-learn working and reach that destination. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to influence ways of working in such a wholesale way. Take the opportunity.

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