Covid-19 Lockdown Thoughts
17 April 2020 - What might our work life look like post COVID-19?
The stay-at-home directive has mandated most companies to work remotely 100%, forcing many organizations to make the leap... whether or not they were prepared for it. It isn't all about having the right technology... even companies who use the appropriate digital tools to enable remote working might still have practiced cultural and behavioural norms that expect routine presenteeism at the office as ‘situation normal’.
The changes that Covid-19 has brought to our lives will alter our expectations of WFH, our workplace, and our colleagues. We consider some likelihoods…
First, the shared experiences of WFH will form a sort of ‘collective consciousness’ for knowledge workers. No longer is working from home a privilege of the senior ranks, the ‘agile’ consultants, the ‘tech industry’-- it is now the de facto behaviour that we all have to adopt for this time. The mainstreaming of WFH means that all home-working experiences, with their myriads of diversities, their benefits and challenges, their gains and shortfalls, will be considered valid and legitimate. In this prolonged period of mass home-working, shared positive experiences (saving time on commuting, sense of personal empowerment, reduction in carbon footprint, increased control of personal space and schedule, etc) will form a collective benchmark of WFH’s benefits. Similarly, shared pains and challenges (sense of isolation, multiple distractions, multi-tasking, lack of space/ ergonomic furniture/ spontaneity/ serendipity, etc) will become topics of common concern that employers, designers, planners will address holistically as part of work life’s multiple facets. Also likely, residential set ups will encompass the work space as a necessary component of the home, whilst the market of ‘ergonomic furniture & fittings’ will see wider consumer interest…. Crucially, companies will adopt the option of WFH more readily and more widely post Covid-19, for the long term resilience of the business. This will translate to more investment in technology and digital sharing.
Second, our workplaces will be destinations for social connection. Workers will come to the office because they choose to, not because they have to. They will come for face to face meetings, for better communication with their colleagues, for the potential of unexpected interactions. and because the workplace has become the site for unique, not routine, encounters. As people come to expect their workplace to perform like a town centre, employers, workplace operators and designers will prioritise providing meaningful shared amenities to meet these expectations. The individual worker will want greater control over her office environment to hold the various types of collaborative and focused work she came to the office to perform. Furthermore, we will probably see a reduced requirement for individually-owned desks in the aftermath of COVID-19, as more workers have the option to WFH. Underlying these behaviours will be a heightened awareness of germs in public spaces. Employees will be expecting a higher level of cleaning in shared spaces, ubiquitous availability of sanitisers for use on shared equipment like door handles, keyboards, copiers, screens, as well as the ability to maintain healthy spacing between occupants.
The remoting of workers en masse will produce much learning material for ways of team management. Whilst independent workers are perhaps able to ‘get on with it’, workers that need consistent guidance, learning or partnering may feel isolated, unproductive and unsure. It appears to be a common understanding that remote work is less productive or efficient compared to working with your team in the office—if that is so, how are managers negotiating the digital filter effectively? Perhaps, manager behaviours that demonstrate trust, empowerment and empathy will serve our teams more effectively in this season of change than metrics of efficiency and productivity.
Stay safe and stay home everyone!
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