What a long few weeks this has been as winter has turned into spring and we quarantine at home. As we emerge from this crisis, I remain hopeful and optimistic that we will start to see fundamental changes in the way we work. The new organization is one where humans, not short-term profits, are at the center of work. Where innovation is the driving force, not process and power. Where leaders look to their employees, and not themselves, for new ideas.
What could this organizational culture look like from the perspective of an employee?
An emphasis on leaders who inspire instead of control
The human-centered, inspiring leaders are driving organizations through this crisis. These leaders communicate, show empathy and vulnerability, and take decisive action. In normal times, the power-hungry, hierarchy-focused leaders may be able to survive – but not now. A new standard of leadership will be created where employees have a voice and are treated as humans instead of “resources.”
A commitment to employee wellness
In the past, employee wellness was a check-the-box benefit that may have included an employee assistance program (EAP) or discounted gym membership. Now, companies have created programs that take into account the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of employees. For example, at Workhuman®, we have morning meditation and emotional resilience classes. Other organizations, such as PwC, are providing guidance on healthy habits. With an uncertain economic outlook, the 24x7 nature of work, and now dealing with coronavirus, employee well-being is paramount to organizational survival and success.
A shattered wall between work and life
Danielle J. Lindemann recently wrote in Quartz at Work: “The current pandemic is forcing us into a moment of reckoning about how we organize work and family in the United States.”
Through video conferencing, we see our colleagues and leaders as human beings – complete with children in the background and laundry ready to be folded. We also see the stress on their faces as they struggle to be an employee, leader, parent, spouse, educator, and elder-care provider.
As such, the pandemic has raised the curtain on the house of cards working parents manage each day. My hope is organizations first acknowledge that we all have families, and second, create processes and benefits that embrace that basic truth. Whether through on-site childcare, elder-care resources, flexible work hours, or longer parental leave, organizations – with CHRO leadership – must step back and take a hard look at how to bridge work and family.
A shift to remote work
Those organizations that did not allow employees to work from home before the pandemic will have a difficult time enforcing that policy after COVID-19. This unexpected global work-from-home mandate has forced many companies to accept remote work as a matter of business continuity. To recruit and retain employees in the future, organizations will not only have to allow remote work, but also enable employees to work wherever and whenever they want.
A renewed priority on values
Are your values in alignment with your organization’s values and mission? Our lives have been upended by this crisis, and many are evaluating what is truly important to them. In the future, organizations that are not mission-driven may struggle to recruit and retain employees.
A focus on human connection
We spend so many hours at work grinding away on tasks, projects, and deliverables. Yet it’s the fundamental sense of connection with our colleagues that is critical for us to enjoy our work and be productive and engaged. Once we return to the office, it will hopefully be with a renewed sense of emotional connection, and leaders will start to prioritize these human connections at work.
A changed organizational structure
This crisis has exposed challenges and flaws with traditional, bureaucratic organizational structures. Amy Edmondson predicts that moving forward, employees will work in more flexible groups with shifting membership, including different locations and specialties.
Soon we will look back on this difficult period as a time of substantial social, economic, and technological transformation. Individuals are putting their lives on the line each day and global organizations are collaborating to build medicines and vaccines to protect human beings.
This transformation will put humans firmly at the center of work.