While the last ten months have brought us uncertainty, COVID-19 has also pushed us to become more creative and think outside our normal approaches to work. Organizations that have a culture of being flexible, creative and adaptable have fared better than those that have clung to the “this is the way we have always done it” mentality. Since COVID-19 has hit us hard, and in many cases, we can no longer do things the way we have always done them, we have no choice but to examine the way we work and make the changes.
So far, what are the takeaways of COVID-19? There are indeed teachable moments. Since we have been tried and tested, let us look at areas for consideration and adjustments.
- Facilitate Work from Home (WFH) – It is time to re-examine how we utilize space for jobs that could well be done outside of a traditional office setting. We need to balance the settings we give to people for work. People are happier and more inspired for greater productivity when their work environment suits the task assigned and aligns with their personal needs and wants. Many organizations are learning how this works now that there is a greater shift to WFH. It is the perfect time to examine the pros and cons and determine how best to organize work. With preparation and guidance, there are potential productivity gains. It is also important to remember that many people work better in an office or have barriers at home that prevent a high level of productivity when they work from home. Once COVID passes, organizations will need to reflect on how to implement a hybrid approach that allows for the continuation of the success of WFH while also maintaining the benefits of collaboration that are enhanced when working in an office together.
- Promote Self-Directed Learning (SDL) – Take the time to empower employees to develop their own skills and improve their personal performance. Provide the resources or tools to help employees to build their knowledge and/or skills. Through e-learning platforms, organizations can support employee learning in office or remotely. SDL learning leads to continuous upskilling and is an essential strategy for non-traditional work arrangements. Besides, in a fast-paced work environment faced with likely disruptions, why look only to in-person training sessions?
- Get on the Technology Train – As far as possible, shift to a paperless office and use technology to share files. In this Cloud era, the ability to access information from anywhere is unlimited providing the infrastructure for organizations to pivot to a successful WFH environment. As for meetings, COVID-19 has proven to us that many exhausting commutes could have been avoided. Although some meetings are better conducted in-person, it is not hard to recall a group of employees huddled in meeting room with an agenda that Zoom or Teams could effectively accommodate. It just makes sense to use technology where possible to improve the way we work.
- Performance Management – If employee engagement and good patterns of communication exist in an organization, managing performance is not so difficult. If pre-COVID-19, a culture of continuous feedback existed with good employee-supervisor relationships, then performance monitoring for WFH employees is not a nail-biting process. Furthermore, since an engaged employee typically demonstrates connection and commitment to an organization, the need to micro-manage is not necessary during remote work. Since relationship building, feedback and coaching are essential elements of performance monitoring, do a review to see if these are missing from your program.
- Workforce Mental Health – There is a reported trend of mental health decline. We are not all the same when it comes to facing the impact of this pandemic. Workforce mental fitness has long been identified as an area to guard in a world of constant shifting. Do you have a wellness program or systems of support for employees who are struggling? The COVID-19 restrictions, although considered necessary, are psychologically burdensome for some employees. The sudden push to WFH has blurred the personal and professional lives of many, leaving some of us fatigued and burnt-out. Furthermore, many leaders have yet to seriously recognize mental fitness as the lifeblood of an organization. More than ever, organizations should take steps to protect the mental health of employees.
I have no doubt that this pandemic will end. After a while, we will be able to get back to our usual way of life. However, the shortfalls amplified since COVID-19 should not be ignored and the lessons learned should not be forgotten. Let us use the lessons from this pandemic to build stronger organizations.
At Pesce & Associates, our consultants have years of experience in developing programs to provide organizational capabilities to confront the future. For more information, please visit our website at www.pesceassociates.com or contact Elizabeth Hill, Managing Partner, at 416- 491-1501 extension 23 or at email@example.com.
Racquel Dalling, Associate