It’s probably too soon to say this when the world is so scary still and we aren’t done panicking but is it possible we can start looking at the good that’s going to come out of this tragedy when it comes to the world of work?
There’s so much in the way of innovation, compassion, community spirit and human grit and resilience in every walk of life around us, so many heroes, so much good, that it would be a shame to focus on the negatives only. The shift to remote and flexible working is going to be one of the major recorded outcomes to this and from that perspective, we would have emerged digitised to a greater degree than most transformation processes were able to deliver over the past few years but while that’s good news, it also means that these are the times when that mould is forged. Those foundations for going forward are being built right now.
It’s not ideal to be building much of anything in the midst of generalised confusion, hardly contained panic and wildly spread intellectual dissonance but this is the time we have. Life and history won’t lay out a special meeting for planning how we will respond to having to immediately shift to working from home because of a pandemic. Not in a real and immediate fashion at least and we surely proved we’re not that fussed about simulations and scenarios of the same when we ignored so many over the years. Instead, this is it, the live design sprint or rather, the in-flight changing of the engine.
We have to make it count. Look at the right things that matter and use this opportunity to correct the things about work that weren’t right. Starting with the glaring “human debt” where we collectively don’t care about our people enough to incessantly obsess about how they feel and about letting them have a voice and be “human at work”.
It’s time we fix it and we are fixing it whether we like it or not because times like this are sharp reminders of what matters and finding ways to be empathic, emotions-intelligent, kind and connected are paramount.
No one has it easy and no one is exempt - despite what the people who turned up to greet a ship in New York the other day think!- but equally, we are all makers of this new future of work and that’s very important and dare I say, exciting.
You don’t have to be a team leader to be a designer of it. You can be the voice of empathy and kindness in your team. You can be the reminder-of-humanity in your team. You can be the common-sense police that talks the team down from some automated behaviour ledge. You can observe what works for others and bring the learnings back to your team. You can incessantly question everything. You can dare to always "pry" and encourage others to do so. You can remind your team leader they have permission and a safe space not to be infallible. You can be the one working out a brilliant solution to one of the hundreds of childcare issues we all suddenly face. There are so many roles and so much to do now, that we all have had to roll our sleeves to usher in previously frowned upon humanity that we all can do something.
Teams who have had a head start in either working remotely or having a really high degree of Psychological Safety, to begin with before this hit, will obviously have an advantage, but the beauty of it, is that everyone has an opportunity to start focusing on how courageous and open or learning and engaged and ultimately how flexible and resilient they are while relentlessly trying to stay authentic and not impression manage in this new digital paradigm.
Let’s use it wisely and keep designing this future of work which has become the “now of work”.