Organisations have had a lot to cope with in response to COVID-19. For many people this has resulted in a shift to homeworking, which has been a relatively smooth change for some, less so for others.
But with the peak of the outbreak having been declared, attention is now shifting to the “what next” phase. From the conversations we have been conducting with our clients, we note there are broadly three different visions of future work patterns leaders are having to consider.
- Where possible, everyone will be encouraged to work regularly from home.
There are clearly leaders whose existing commitment to flexible working has been vindicated by how their people have responded to the challenge of homeworking. For others, it will have been more of a discovery. Either way, they have already decided that this will be part of what we are all referring to as the new normal. There can be no going back.
- Let’s get back to the way we used to do things as soon as possible.
For those in this category, the crisis has been an uncomfortably long trip outside their leadership comfort zone. Whilst they may be presented with evidence that homeworking can bring organisational benefits, they will attach greater weight to any contrary indicators. Such individuals cannot wait for things to get back to normal.
- The immediate future seems very unsure, so planning with conviction is difficult.
For this group, no singularly obvious old or new normal has yet emerged. Such leaders recognise that their industry is evolving as must their organisations place within it. This crisis has demonstrated that their people can adapt rapidly to significant market disruption but there may be more to come. So, adopting a wait-and-see strategy seems especially important right now.
There is no attempt here to judge any one of the above as being “best”. All visions are valid. What is perhaps most interesting is how professionals across our industry are drawing hugely different conclusions as a result of being exposed to the same event. This is why it is so important that we should check in regularly with our customers to discover how they are interpreting their environment. We should not assume clients will rate equally our performance on their behalf during this crisis.