Impact of Covid-19 on the workplace
It seems that the hybrid workplace is here to stay, and that in order to foster organizational success in this new working environment leaders and managers need to be equipped to adapt in order to be effective. A greater focus on empathy and individual well-being, on fostering a culture of trust, transparency and openness, and on building resiliency are all required. Human leaders who are authentic, empathetic, adaptive and courageous are required, and a primary way of developing and/or enhancing these attributes and competencies is via coaching.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), “The world’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working from home has become the new normal, and we’ve gone from digitizing the relationship between firm and customer to digitizing the relationship between employer and employee.” (5 Ways COVID has Changed Workforce Management, June 2020)
With regard to leadership, the publication identifies the need to change leadership and management competencies. “In tandem with honing digital skills and an improved infrastructure, it is necessary that corporate culture and leadership skills focus on empathy as transformation and disruptions become the new normal.”
It further states that a culture of trust, transparency and openness is required. “This period has required us all to be supportive of one another, as we all face uncertainty. Control has to some extent given way to trust. People are learning how to do work disparately and with far less oversight: they are learning ‘on the job’ what works and what doesn’t work at home, and holding virtual meetings that might have happened before but never to such an extent. We are more consistently in touch with each other, and this has become a time of connection”.
The publication suggests that a greater focus on individual well-being is required, noting that there has been a significant increase in people suffering from anxiety and depression in the post-COVID world. Greater employee support, and in particular building resilience is a key priority. “Resilience considerations will rebalance a company’s priorities and become just as important to strategic thinking as cost and efficiency.”
Gartner’s report “Future of Work Trends Post Covid-19” (June 2022) predicts the following:
- Hybrid work becomes mainstream: create a new, human-centric model for the hybrid environment by designing work around employee-driven flexibility, culture connectedness and human leadership.
- Employee well-being is a key metric: deliver on well-being as part of your employee value proposition to attract and retain talent.
- Turnover will increase: employee turnover will continue to increase because the emotional costs of leaving the organization are lower when hybrid and because there’s more choice in employers when location is no longer a factor. To combat this sustained turnover, connect hybrid employees to the organization’s culture and invest in talent processes to expand employee networks.
- Managers’ roles are changing: with fewer opportunities for spontaneous in-person interactions in the workplace, managers need to be more intentional in establishing and developing relationships with their team members. The manager-employee relationship is critical in shaping the employee experience and connection to the organization. Managers need to be provided with the proper tools to become human leaders and manage employees’ career perceptions, well-being and connection to organizational culture.
In Gartner for HR’s publication “Evolve Culture & Leadership for the Hybrid Workplace” (2022), it is suggested that one key area in which organizations need to evolve their approach is equipping leaders: effective hybrid leaders are human leaders who are authentic, empathetic and adaptive to individual employees. The approach recommended to overcoming leader doubt, fear and uncertainty is to build courage and eliminate fear through coaching and training.