The scale of change humanity faces following the COVID-19 pandemic are huge. The consequences of lockdowns that went on for months on end across the world, are already visible in a wide range of areas, including education and family relationships.
The changes have also significantly affected economies and workplaces.
As Covid-19 is a global pandemic, measures taken to stop the spread of the virus have been the same in various parts of the world. As a result, the dramatic effects from long periods of confinement are happening on a global scale.
The fallout from Covid-19 in the workplace
When it comes to the workplace, the biggest change has been the need for everyone who can, to work from home. Although remote working is not suitable for every job, it is now the expected solution to enable business operations to continue safely and avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
Although remote working is widespread in some countries, this was the exception rather than the norm.
Looking ahead, the challenge is how businesses will evolve to meet the 1.5m social distance ruling. All signs indicate that our everyday lives for at least, the next few months, will be shaped by the need to maintain the required social distance in all contexts, including the workplace.
Experts suggest the shift to remote working is likely to become permanent once the pandemic is over.
In a recent interview on Euronews, Giorgos Balafoutis, a cyber architect at Microsoft, explained why the traditional working model for businesses is guaranteed to change as a result of the Covid-19.
Giorgos highlights the fact that companies will need to be much more flexible post-pandemic and allow employees to work remotely, with the flexibility to complete tasks from both the office and home.
The benefits to both staff and business operations are wide-ranging, including everything from savings in office expenses to transportation and more.1
The long term consequences of this pandemic stretch far beyond economics.
Further effects will be felt in work relationships and social gatherings.
The decision to allow employees to work from home is a difficult one and there are some drawbacks employers should consider now, so they can be dealt with effectively when they arise.
There are a number studies carried out before the pandemic that indicate working from home increases employee productivity – this is clearly something employers should take into account when the lockdown is lifted.
Additionally, current experiences reinforce the idea that remote working is less taxing because employees don’t have to deal with things like stressful commutes or piles of laundry when they return home.
It is in the redefining of working relationships where the most profound changes will occur.
Although larger businesses may come up with innovations such as smaller offices or keeping whole team meetings to a minimum, there will be bigger challenges in other areas.
With the dynamics of remote working added to new working relationships, it is clear that the relationships between colleagues will also change.
Practical questions for consideration
There are many questions to consider as we move forwards.
How will teamwork be approached?
How will the return to the office space be managed and how will you incorporate those still working from home?
When your staff return to the office, how will you ensure employees are working within the same ethos, speak the same company language, feel part of the company and can still work together after months of being apart at home.
What you don’t want is for your staff to come together in six months and be unable to relate to each other.
Clearly we are seeing a relaxation of many work rules and policies at the moment. For example, there is no longer a need for employees to follow office dress codes, personal contact is in many ways less natural and cold – almost entirely based on work issues and communicated via email and Whatsapp.
These issues are already beginning to affect the branding and culture of many organizations.
For example, by not physically seeing or interacting with customers, the language of organisations is becoming more informal and relaxed. This and many others are part of the urgent changes that need to be addressed post-lockdown. Ideally, the sooner, the better – don’t wait for lockdown restrictions to be lifted – start addressing these issues now.
Find a common language
The sharing of language during conversations and communications during the working day are essential to the health of a team. Regaining these skills and organisational values post-lockdown is critical.
It is important to remember that talking about values isn’t something we usually do and with so much time spent outside the office during lockdown, it is highly likely these shared values will be lost.
The culture of a company is based on the experiences of everyone in the organization and values must be shared by all employees. With strong company values, it is possible to build a corporate culture in which everyone feels safe, valued and confident.
These are my suggestions for how employers should refresh their company dynamics and ensure their company culture is strengthened as they move forwards.
- 1. Establish brainstorming meetings where colleagues can get together and exchange ideas to get used to natural office interactions again.
- 2. Company leaders should communicate organisational values and the benefits they have for the workplace.
- 3. Encourage employees to communicate with each other in groups and one-to-one.
- 4. Remember that showing interest in the others helps to create a work environment that is safe, where everyone feels welcome to participate. For this reason it is really important to organise meetings outside the workplace to share jokes, laugh together, talk about outside interests, offer support and solidarity.
- 5. Discuss decisions about the company’s future together. These discussions about how to return safely to the workplace build communication between colleagues that are essential.
Article based on an interview with Caribey Sánchez
Image by Dapiki Moto Unsplash