We’re back !
The Covid-19 lockdown in France hit our working habits hard and a lot of the effects on teams and the workplace still remain. The crisis has also, however, opened up new horizons for businesses, with humbleness, solidarity, inventiveness and resilience standing out as the indispensable qualities needed to gain something from the ordeal.
Property, a lever
Businesses are going to have to give considerable thoughts to their workplaces to make them more efficient, more service-based and more agreeable to work in. They are going to have to renew their employees’ desire to come in to work, to interact, to exchange ideas within smaller areas, all of which would help reduce corporate overheads. Basically, this means that tomorrow’s office buildings will have a fresh face and will become:
– the shop window for the company’s managerial expertise, incorporating new ways of working;
– a centre for organising individual and group spaces, precious new areas for driving value creation for the company;
– the driving force for the professional community, creating bonds and individual commitment.
If the first part of the crisis saw distance working taking over from the physical workspace, the second part will see new outposts being used as a motivating work environment, which people can use for meeting in small groups. This will also help avoid the risk of everything grinding to a halt if there is a new health crisis, a strike or if people decide they prefer working in small groups within a versatile platform.
The head office will become the base camp and hub, with spokes leading out to other smaller camps allowing employees to split their time between home office, co-working and corporate working areas for interacting with internal and external contacts. This decentralisation will mean adopting new tools for organising travel and interactions between multidisciplinary teams, while maintaining corporate culture and the bonds between employees.
Businesses showed remarkable versatility during the lockdown, with videoconferences enabling everybody to keep in contact, meet up virtually, work and even allow children to continue with their class work. These technological solutions reveal the bare bones of what works and what doesn’t work and also point at what needs to be improved, especially for the 76% of French people who began missing their office after 10 days of lockdown.
With many solutions, what this comes down to is a virtual reality avatar used alongside an office for maintaining interactions between the various workspaces, employees and managers.
A new type of management
Distance management has had a bombshell effect on management techniques. Issues that have emerged include how to manage projects distantly and how employees can gear up for the post-crisis period. Under the lockdown, managers had to take risks and test out new techniques and this situation gave them a kind of freedom they hadn’t experienced before and provided the basis for creating new bonds.
With #backtowork, this new-found freedom has been taking root and has become part of normal operations, expressing itself as a more assertive autonomy, with people more liable to voice their doubts, to listen, to use new techniques to give the idea of proximity, encourage peer support and drive shorter, more efficient meetings.
The human side is back
How many of us have found ourselves in a meeting getting wound up seeing people with their heads down staring at their phones and looking after their own business rather than contributing something to the group? The Covid 19 crisis has shown how important it is to see each other in the flesh and how people’s physical presence is worth far more than any other interaction.
The crisis has also shown the extraordinary variety and depth of human interactions and how vital they are for individual and collective development. Every one of us will probably now be able to better appreciate the value of physical presence, and the greater emphasis placed on talents and empathy, the transmission of ideas and the demonstration of commitment, the expression of opinions and the provision of support. One of the only benefits to emerge from the pandemic is the newly found discovery of the value of our human capital.
People need to work together differently
The workplace is changing and the lockdown we experienced has underlined the need to give people more independence and more responsibilities. The problem is, though, when there is a management pyramid which won’t budge and this is when it becomes difficult for people to assert themselves and remain committed and motivated. Businesses need to take a long, hard look at their management methods and at the same time train their people to help them boost their #softskills.
Employees need to know how to express their own uniqueness, communicate with understanding and have confidence in their own talents, notions which, taken together, will make them more proactive and more versatile. Volatile markets need businesses with strong, well knitted teams who are comfortable with the constantly changing digital tools they’re called upon to use.
The pandemic has opened our eyes to two genuine questions that need to be asked: is what I do useful to society? Do I enjoy what I do? Employee commitment has a far greater impact on performance than money and working hours, and it’s something that is often overlooked. Businesses are going to have to change the way they’re organised so that everyone finds their right balance and their proper place. This is the prime condition for the workplace to come out of this crisis with a better outlook.