Guest post by Ian Baker, Head of Workplace Consulting, EMCOR UK
“People are crazy and times are strange,(Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed, 2000)
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range,
I used to care, but things have changed.”
Just before this current situation got ‘very real’ I read that when we look back on major events, either in our personal lives or in the wider world (like a global pandemic) that we identify life as ‘before’ and ‘after’ with our views being different on either side. It gave me something positive to hold on to, knowing that change will be coming and that when we’re free to leave our homes and return to the workplace many people’s views of those workplaces and what they mean to us will have shifted.
I think the extent and direction of this shifted view will depend on the amount of time social distancing lasts (6 weeks and counting!), the generation that we belong to and our working patterns ‘before’ this situation arose.
Six weeks in and some form of change is now even more likely. How and where it takes place though is still very debatable. The workplace profession is always quick to respond with ideas, solutions and the occasional statement of fact, but one thing is certain – one size never fits all and there will be as many different ‘new normals’ as there were ‘normals’ beforehand.
I’ve always believed that ‘People’ are at the heart of any workplace, but at the time of writing I want to be more specific – I think we should be focussing our attention on ‘relationships’. When we eventually find ourselves in the ‘after’ post Covid-19, the organisations that seek to create better relationships with their employees will reap the rewards that great partnerships inevitably bring; providing spaces for increasing collaboration, encouraging flexibility, focussing on wellbeing and mental health.
Workplaces which demonstrate the value and importance of relationships outside of work will likely gain more ground. When we emerge from our homes, rubbing our eyes in the sunlight, we’ll look to see how our organisations will merge our new ‘working from home lives’ (where we have discovered new ways of working and re-discovered things that really matter to us) with a return to whatever our ‘new normals’ will eventually be.
This future should not be written by headlines, it should be written by the individuals whose views will have been altered by this seismic event, organisations should grasp this opportunity to evaluate what all this means to them, gather information for analysis and then make evidence-based decisions for change.
We have the chance to make lives better by organising work and workplaces differently. We should be taking stock now to ensure we don’t rush back to do the same things we did before, the things we didn’t like about work. It’s our responsibility to make the “after” a better one and perhaps if we grasp the opportunity, we’ll come out of this with a happy ending.
With thanks for this guest post to:
Ian Baker, Head of Workplace Consulting for leading facilities management company EMCOR UK.