What is the Future of Work?
What is the Future of Work?
With the UK government set to issue their guidelines for a range of organizations to start to re-open their doors over the next few weeks, some FTSE 100 companies are already anticipating not being able to operate fully for at least another 12 months. Guidelines are expected to include phased returns, the use of the anticipated NHS app, wearing of face masks, social distancing and staggered breaks. Many SMEs with small offices are also concerned and are already exploring how they will be able to function, fully aware that BAU will not resume any time soon. All companies are aware that there will be a ‘new normal’ as Health and Safety Managers start to conduct risk assessments to keep their workers physically safe and avoid a potential second peak in Covid-19 cases in the Autumn. CEOs and HR are also having to consider the short and long-term emotional impact of the pandemic on their human resources.
Physical Health Issues and Fears
What has become apparent in the emergency lockdown, is that there are many individuals, who outwardly look extremely healthy, but are suffering from some form of underlying physical health condition, such as an auto-immune disease, asthma or diabetes. Their employers are often unaware of these conditions, as up until now they haven’t caused any threats or issues at work. However, with this virus effecting all ages, it’s no surprise that, according to some surveys, over half of the working population is reportedly scared about returning to work; throw in to the mix the use of public transport required for their commute, and this percentage rises by at least another 10%.
Aside from the fear employees have of returning to work in an office, now that the initial shock of remote working has dissipated, many are now actually enjoying their new lifestyles. During my recent online Executive Business Coaching and Mentoring meetings, the consensus is that no one is missing driving long distances, strap-hanging on the tube or train, or being stuck in traffic jams. Of course, many employees are having to manage their childcare and home schooling during working hours, but some are relishing their new-found evenings to exercise, bake bread, learn a new hobby, or catch up more often with family and friends virtually. As most organizations have discovered that their workforce can function adequately from their spare bedroom or kitchen table, the issue for employers, is that many workers will not want to give up this flexible way of working and slower pace of life after lockdown. Add in those who have been furloughed and a whole new set of challenges and dynamics begin to emerge; these include resentment and competition if these workers have been side-lined for a promotion or redeployment to another function, and a possible need to re-induct team members due to the major organizational changes which were required to manage the crisis. ‘FOMO’ takes on a whole new meaning, when those employees who have been battling together to tackle the crisis have developed a new spirit of ‘teamship’, whereas those who haven’t, may feel they have become outliers.
Conversely, there are many managers and team members, who are working during what was their commuting time, putting in extra hours, not taking enough breaks and suffering from screen fatigue and muscular skeletal issues. Many have stepped up considerably during the crisis, some even being promoted rapidly; there is a concern that these individuals may be hurtling towards burnout when a more ‘normal’ routine returns, therefore, companies are investing more in Resilience and Well-being Coaching to address some of these concerns before lockdown ends and afterwards to support employees with the transition in to post-pandemic recovery mode. Fear of redundancy is also rampant and with a large number of high-profile job losses being announced last week, as budgets will be cut and recruitment frozen, many staff members are also worried about their job security. In addition, very few employees are taking any annual leave, not wanting to ‘waste’ it during lockdown. This could be another disaster waiting to happen, as many employees will want to go on holiday as soon as it becomes relatively safe to do so. Sadly, with the tragically high death toll due to coronavirus in the UK, many workers are also experiencing bereavement.
More key Challenges facing CEOs and HR
With no clear plan for the end of lockdown, leaders and HR teams are having to manage major uncertainty whilst addressing business continuity and recovery measures. Post-lockdown, it will become more important than ever to create a well-communicated vision and strategy, with clearly defined roles, responsibilities and aligned objectives. New teams will need to be formed with flexibility offered for a staggered return to work. The challenge for leaders and HR now is to come out of ‘crisis mode’, to find the time to horizon scan and future plan, as well as being able to diversify and create new opportunities in order to survive, be competitive or even scale. Amidst all the current uncertainty, one thing is certain - the issues keeping CEOs awake at night (including the 3 years of uncertainty surrounding Brexit) have changed dramatically over the past few weeks. So the new concern is how to transition from Crisis Management and Crisis Leadership to more Strategic and Agile Leadership in order to navigate the unprecedented changing landscape post-pandemic.
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