The social posts have started, pictures of frazzled parents clutching bottles of gin celebrating the return of their children to school, for most it is a mixture of emotions with good reason. The polls on how many people want to return to their offices speak for themselves. Regardless of your personal situation, you can feel that we are entering another change. The last six months have been a challenge for many, the last six weeks more so. Juggling care for younger or dependant people around your day job and without so much as a swift half to calm you down on the way home.
In general, I would say most companies were well ahead of the government and adapted admirably when the crisis hit, supporting the new flexible regime, that was my impression anyway. I hope companies keep up that pace with this ‘newer new normal’, which is anything but normal. HR leaders have their work cut out but I feel optimistic at the examples being set currently in the private sector especially.
So, what is the newer new normal I hear you ask? One aspect is that if we are all based at home, and our children at school, will there be flexibility to drop them off and pick them up? Will this be considered your break? What about the people with dependants who are now have fewer hours to access you? What if you are booked on to a Zoom call or training course and cannot attend due to these commitments, how will this be met?
In the absence of pre and after school clubs, will employers be bold enough to allow you to block out 45 mins twice a day for school runs, as well as take a lunch break? What will the mental impact on people be if we are not given permission to undertake these duties in a calm way? I would say catastrophic which in turn hurts the business. Also, how does this change benefits packages? In my experience as a sales leader, the most powerful motivator was time off, this always trumped financial incentives.
Despite recent musings by government ministers about remote work not being real work, it feels like we are about the enter phase two of a forced transformation, one that could benefit all of us if handled with care, I hope the political decision makers of this world can keep up.
My feeling is now more than ever we (the people) need the greatest levels of understanding and empathy our society can afford. And we as leaders on no matter what scale need to practice patience and empathy more than ever before in the workplace as our personal / work life become even more closely intertwined.
Personally, I am committed to scheduling any meetings or courses with sensitivity, perhaps asking twice if the time slot works to really understand if we are compromising another person’s commitments. There is always a time that works for all, let us take the time to find out what it is.
How about you? I would love to hear your views and ideas – please list them in the comments below. If I get enough, I will share them collectively later. And we can all put them into practice.
Jake Maxwell, Commercial Director, Livetime Learning Ltd