Work & Life with the Connected Workforce in New Normal
Sipping coffee in the portico of his house, Varun was soaking at the moment. He was in his hometown of Azamgarh, in the interiors of Uttar Pradesh. A place he had left many years ago, in search of work. Today, work had come to his hometown and with it had brought a work-life harmony that Varun had never imagined.
Armed with a broadband connection, a renewed purpose, and filled with the happiness of working from his ancestral hometown, Varun was a new person. And that showed in his work. He was more prompt. More cheerful. More willing to go the extra mile.
Welcome to the new world of work from anywhere! in new normal. A world that changed dramatically after COVID 19. Let’s explore how this will change the rules of the game (work policies) impact the players (the employees & managers) and how the field of the game (the workplace) will change.
The New Work policy: Your customizedSub
There was a time when taking up a new job had considerations like compensation, designation, location. These considerations will not change, but their definitions will. Consider this. You’ve cleared a whole lot of interviews and you get your new role. A plethora of options are presented to you. Is it a job you are looking for, or is it a gig assignment? Do you want to work from home? Or hometown? Do you want to come to the office once a week, or never? Do you want to work for 2 hours or 8 hours? And what hours would those be?
Depending on what your answers are to these questions, a customized HR policy will be created for you. COVID 19 has done to the work policy, what Subway did your normal sandwich. You can no longer just go to the counter and ask for a sub. Once you order, you are asked questions like- which bread, which vegetables, which sauces, what grill etc etc. So, we are getting into an era where there is no standard employment letter. The letter and its contents will be determined by the choices you make!
The New Employee: A sprinter & the marathoner
When rules of the game change, the players adapt. And so do the referees. I remember many years ago, the head of HR sent an email on how employees should see work as a ‘marathon’. Essentially saying- ‘be here for the long haul’. Today, organizations themselves are seeing some employees as people who will come for specific projects and exit. And some others who will stay longer in the organization, but in different roles.
Perceptions of what is a ‘good employee’ will also change. Also, people who are constantly moving from one organization to another will longer be seen as ‘shifty’ but will be valued for the variety of experiences they bring. And if your experience includes being a failed entrepreneur, a stay at home parent, or an artist, then that’s even better. Working in these new conditions requires employees with a different mindset.
They will have to be self-starters, very comfortable with technology, and have a completely agile way of working. In this new environment, the hard skills are a given and so how empathetic, communicative, and collaborative you are will make the real difference.
The New Workplace: It’s in the mind
The office is dead! Long live the office. This could well be the new clarion call of the employees today.. The workplace has now shifted to the ‘mind’ of the employee. Which means that one could be in Timbaktoo and still be working on an important project. This could redefine how people think about the holidays and leaves.
Since people don’t have to go to a physical place to work, organizations will need to do more to keep them connected. No longer will general ‘fun activities’ be enough. They will need to create ‘emotional hooks’ which will help employees see the purpose in their work. Most organizations struggle to keep employees engaged, so making them feel purposeful will be even more difficult. Organizations can do this with what the researchers- Bass and Avolio, called ‘transformational leadership’.
So, what does this mean for organizations- leaders, the policymakers, and the employees? How can we change for the better?
One thing is for sure, no one is going to go back to the old ways of working. The shifts will come at three different levels. First, the concept of agile working policies will undergo changes. We will have ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘fit for context’ policies. This means that we will need workplace policies that are adaptable to people’s work styles and choices. Talent will be the only consideration and the policies will be woven around that.
That’s fascinating because suddenly a retired bureaucrat becomes available since age is no longer a limiting factor. Second, technology will play a key role in connecting this disparate workforce with varying levels of motivation. Yet, what will be most important is the quality of leadership. Care and empathy-driven leadership will go hand in hand with a culture that believes in data. Finally, one of the most significant changes that will come in this ‘uberization’ of the workforce, will be the resurgence of culture and values. At the end of the day, organizations that invest in building trusting relationships and encourage a culture of tolerance and acceptance will win the game.
Going back to where we started from, what does that mean for Varun who is currently working from Azamgarh? He needs to be more mindful of his work commitments. He has to be more communicative, more driven because he has to shoulder the responsibilities himself. Big daddy (read the boss)- is not watching or commenting anymore… And for organizations this means that they will need to accept the ‘cooker kisitti’ going off in the background and at the same time be demanding of world-class work, being done from anywhere!
*Views are personal