There have been at least 500 articles talking about how the virus pandemic has changed the job scenario.
Actually, what this crisis has done is:
a) Acted as a huge catalyst to get in change that may have otherwise taken a decade or more
b) Forced every company across the globe to question existing ways and come up with new and hitherto unthinkable ways.
I call it the RAAST model. React, Assess, Act, Survive Thrive.
The first response for any organization is a reaction. This could be based on panic, denial, analysis, instinct or a combination of these.
After the initial reaction and in the presence of more data, companies assess and reassess.
Short term, mid-term and long-term actions are discussed and prioritized.
Now come the decisions. Immediate ones, for survival.
Then the innovations. Can we do the same things, faster, cheaper and better? Can we do something new, different, disruptive?
As of now, four out of five workers globally, have been impacted by the crisis.
In the last one year, most organizations are through with the React, Assess and Act Phase.
That gets us to the Survive phase. Most companies have only looked at cost cutting measures for the Survival phase and the biggest impact has been on the staff. Job cuts, salary cuts, leave without pay, more work for the same pay, work from home, sabbaticals… Organizations have thought of many permutations and combinations.
All in the name of a new work culture.
But then, a new work culture does not evolve by simply cutting or reassigning staff. A new work culture means a new way of thinking and adjusting. While companies announce ‘Work from Home’ without blinking, employees struggle with situations at home where suddenly home and work i.e. the personal and the professional share the same space.
How do companies now create the same energy that comes from a rousing team building exercise held at a retreat?
What about social experiences ?
How can these be enhanced to build better teamwork and efficiency cross working teams.
Many companies assume that if existing processes are re-engineered, staff will know what to do. The processes will help deliver quality service and better products. But the truth is that it is the other way round. Processes are created by people. How do we expect staff to work in a new paradigm, building new processes, given that they themselves are the ones directly affected ?
In most countries, despite the overlap between the personal and professional space and time, staff seem to have taken well to working from home. Some benefits like avoiding traffic jams, saving some fuel costs and eating warm home cooked food may have contributed to this. But sooner than later, given the on and off lockdowns, some staff may have psychological issues.
What would companies do? And how do they circumvent issues like the need to keep tabs on the staff’s work output; the staff wanting to showcase their productivity and time management skills.
At some point, would companies look at sharing resources? That could be a win for the companies and the staff?
Is there any data to show how whether men and women are coping differently with the situation?
As part of the survival strategy, should companies consider holding on to more women or men?
Women are used to working from home. Would that make WFH easier for them?
How about employee engagement?
Technology has played a big part in this area. Virtual meetings, trainings, games, even virtual parties now get employees engaging with each other individually and as teams. Trainings enable upskilling, with certificates and awards.
Again, it begs the question why employees are not upskilling themselves working across industries. A different work environment with perhaps different objectives may well give a motivational push to the staff.
While most companies are still getting the processes right and ironing out the nuts and bolts, some companies have encouraged employees to pursue hobbies. Some of the employees have started cooking and delivering packed lunch for other staff. Some have given vent to their musical talent on social media platforms. Virtual dance classes, quizzes, even hackathons, employers and employees are finding a good balance for work, hobbies and sometimes a mix of the two.
It’s not about the salary anymore. Who would have imagined so many staff working on 50% salary or lower and yet staying motivated?
Besides the flexible schedule, some of the other benefits of WFH could be:
- Productivity increases due to fewer interruptions as staff can manage their own time better without supervision.
- More opportunities to learn, upskill and get self-reliant: Most staff working from home learn to make practical and independent decisions.
- Saving fuel costs and commuting time. Even Wifi cost; sometimes companies pay a part of the home internet cost too which is a benefit for the employee.
- Lower pollution, lower traffic, lower carbon emissions are contributing to a greener, more sustainable environment.
If the pandemic has redefined how people work, it can also define what they do. Some companies have used the opportunity to see if they can rejig the square pegs in round holes by putting them in jobs more suited to their skills.
Some companies have completely changed what they do. In India, fashion clothing companies went on to produce PPE kits for front line workers.
There are industries that have benefitted from COVID. Food delivery, Pharma, E-Learning, Entertainment, Remote working tools and software, Medical devices, logistics, free lancing, electronic payments to name a few.
And there are industries that have been badly hit. Airlines, hotels, travel agents, other hospitality related industies, professionals like lawyers, accountants and engineers, Movie theaters, live sports.
Maybe it’s time for industries to step up and share the burden and the opportunity collectively. Can an account work in the logistics industry? Or an airline staff get into Pharma? That would be Innovative thinking. Time to find out.