Unlock 1 has seen many get back to their office spaces and adapt to the new normal of masks and social distancing. It’s a good time to reflect on the many lessons we’ve learnt during the lockdown and how we can apply it to our corporate lives. Sometimes, all it takes for change to take effect is the lack of choice. As we grappled with being locked at home, we geared up to learn new skills, find new ways of entertainment and we collectively managed to remote work effectively. Here’s a look at some lessons we can take back to work with us:
Are we all Digital yet?
Somewhere between forgetting to switch on the mute button and switching off the camera, we all grew up to be digital. The world before the lockdown was divided between the Digital Natives and the Digital not-quite-there-yet. What stopped us from adopting technology which existed to make our lives simpler and help us work more efficiently? And yet, how come when it came to personal usage, we easily figured out Firestick/Chromecast streaming and the latest cell phones? Learning happens out of interest or necessity; and at a company level the interest must trickle top down. The leadership team and managers need to bring in a culture of systemic learning and that begins with them upskilling to lead by example. This serves a dual purpose – one that accepts not knowing everything is normal and second that it’s never too late to learn.
The Key Takeout: For organisations to innovate and evolve, there needs to be a culture of learning. The ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke’ philosophy is the biggest roadblock to innovation.
Workload equals loads of work?
It’s fascinating how we seamlessly divided house tasks based on innate ability – the younger ones for physically-intense housecleaning, the ones who knew cooking took up kitchen work and the rest did dishes and groceries. Some people rotated duties but each family found its own rhythm. Each person was accountable for their work, knew the others’ tasks and trusted them to do it. Of course, things work differently in the corporate world with its clearly demarcated job profiles and associated qualifications; however, we can take a leaf out of this and relook at how we can assign work beyond qualifications. Align teams to a short-term common goal, clearly define how they’re contributing to it individually and collectively, and acknowledge that effort and result.
The Key Takeout: Working collaboratively by its very nature takes away the sense of ‘it’s not my job’ and builds a system where each one is aware and thus appreciative of the work the others are doing.
Time: Too much of a good thing?
Humans are creatures of habit which is why when faced with what seemed like infinite time, we used it exactly the way we are accustomed to spending it. The workaholics worked, the fitness freaks worked out, TV addicts binged and almost everyone learned to bake! But at some point we got a sense of too much, even if it was something we enjoyed, we started missing the office, the routine. How does this apply in the corporate world? If you let people chill and do what they love for some time, you’ll get them more refreshed and charged up to work rather than restricting them to strictly work during work hours. By forbidding things, we make them more appealing. This is not a carte blanche to slack off but a more lenient work style where half an hour on YouTube or a game of Scrabble is acceptable and doesn’t have to be done behind the boss’ back.
The Key Takeout: If work is no more restricted from 9 to 5, why should fun have set timings? Set boundaries but don’t make work and life mutually exclusive.
Focusing vs flexibility?
The easily distracted, and that’s pretty much all of us, will find a distraction worth their time. Pets and children replaced colleagues, chores replaced coffee breaks and SOs replaced bosses. On the other hand, we were saved from focusing on what to wear, what is she wearing, where to go after work, the meeting that should’ve been an email etc. The lockdown brought home the truth on how much time and energy is wasted on things of little or no significance. Despite the increase in daily chores, the lack of an office environment, and distractions at home; most people reported being more productive while working from home. Should this mean an end to office as we know it? Yes and no. The office as we knew it – singular location, fixed timings, everyone & everyday reporting – needs to give way to a more flexible, work from home and work near home approach. The flexibility may differ between industries, organisations but the core approach needs to evolve.
The Key Takeout: Focus on what’s essential and become a more outcome/goal-oriented workplace. Does it really matter if the person delivers an exceptional presentation wearing trousers or pyjamas?
When the lines between office and home are getting increasingly blurred, there’s merit to introspect and apply learnings from home and family to help teams work better. The lockdown tested and demonstrated our potential to trust, collaborate and handle a crisis; and it would be a shame to not carry some of this back with us as we head back to office.