New Norm of Work-life Space in Times of Crisis

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The ‘New Norm’ is yet to be experienced - The patterns that are being visualized store huge surprises - like Covid-19 and the changes it demands from humanity

We have been speaking about VUCA for some time now. Professionals and people at large probably had not experienced it fully. COVID-19 pandemic has become a great leveler. Nations, corporates, economies, and societies have all experienced rapid changes at once. The impact of the pandemic may vary from business to business. 

“The ‘New Norm’ is yet to be experienced – The patterns that are being visualized store huge surprises – like Covid-19 and the changes it demands from humanity.”

All we can make is a guesstimate of ‘how it might or can be’? That, too, with our limited understanding of the current ecosystem and future predictions. Times ahead of us are dynamic, complex, and rapidly evolving. However, discovering and inventing solutions in real-time will become the need of the hour.

Boundaryless Workplace

People in the formal employment, sectors can work remotely. Their travel to the workplace will be minimal. The additional available due to this can be invested in learning new skills, spending more time with kids, participating in helping the needy, or simply to binge-watch Netflix. These may result in an increased sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

While some people might end up working from home permanently, many will return to workplaces that are being radically reconfigured.

All of us must develop a perspective on the new situation and derive meaning from it. Managers and organizations must ignite hope and create the image of a ‘future organization’ people are excited to be a part of.

Reduced footfalls at the office should result in carbon footprint reduction (a/c usage, etc.), savings on real estate, and optimization of administrative expenses. However, moving people to deliver from physical infra to virtual infra will be a daunting proposition. The implementation cost is high and maybe prohibiting for many organizations and industries.

The inability to measure employee productivity working remotely might restrict organizations to go full throttle in this direction.

Boundaryless Talent

Organizations are getting initial signals that allowing people to WFH or remote working or telecommuting is good for business, that it saves dollars in office space, raises morale, and meets the demands of the younger generation. It may open up new vistas for the organisation. One of them is ‘talent pool’ – it widens the catchment area, more women will choose to work, competencies can be ramped up fast and onsite customer engagement may become better.

We will have to reevaluate our talent strategies. The best of the talent in tier-2 or tier-3 cities will choose to stay at their place and work for an organization in tier-1 cities. With increased protectionism expected from the governments and visas challenges, especially in developed countries tapping on talent with the boundary-less environment will be a solution to ensure business continuity.

In fact, the recent WalkWater report quotes, ‘looks like that in future, work will go to talent and not the talent to work’.

Boundaryless Selling

B2B enterprises are discussing how ‘sales’ can be accomplished with minimal in-person discussions with customers. New sales models and communication methods expected to move from physical to remote negotiations or onsite discussion of online discussions.

There is an overlap between the workers who are vulnerable in the current downturn and those who hold jobs susceptible to Digitalisation in the future.  In addition to the effects of technology, the crisis itself may create lasting changes in consumer behavior and health protocols.

Leadership

Leaders and their leadership skills to steer ‘new norms’ will be more pronounced. It is imperative for leaders in the new world to demonstrate compassion and to make dealing with the unfolding crisis the priority.

For people, the lost sense of normalcy can trigger grief, and with it, feelings of shock, denial, anger, and depression. In such circumstances demonstrating highly visible and caring leadership becomes even more critical.

Changing Regulations and Consumer Expectations

Professionals, manufacturers, planners, and others are contemplating how workplaces will look and feel in the near and long term as employers adjust to new rules about maintaining physical distances, reducing workspace density and combating the spread of germs.

Smart distancing (adequate physical distancing, yet emotionally well-connected) will be the key behavior that the entire society has to learn.

We need to see if governments will enact new laws on ‘distancing’, will organizations & multiplexes permanently change seating arrangements, hotels increase the frequency of fumigation, malls controlling footfalls, airlines carrying fewer passengers per flight.

Or will we end up changing nothing and behave similarly to pre Covid-19 era? Either way, the impact on our ‘lives or livelihood’ is enormous.

Evolution and adapting to evolution are validated by ‘Homo Sapiens’. Constant learning is a new way to be. Acquiring skills, learning, unlearning, and keeping updated will be our biggest vaccine towards new norms of ‘work-life space’.

Charles Darwin said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent but the one most responsive to change.”

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Raghu Chandrashekar is Senior Vice President and Head HR, Siemens Healthineers, India. He has worked extensively on building HR organisation, People & Leadership Development, Change Management, M&A, Employee Engagement, Compensation and Organisation effectiveness. Raghu brings more than 2 decades of rich experience in crafting and implementing a winning organisation. Prior to his current role, he was heading Leadership & Development function for Siemens India. Driving culture change and bringing organisation vision and values into day to day life is his core strength. HR was recognized as the best enabling function (2019) in his organisation.

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