“With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us”
Smells Like Teen Spirit | Nirvana
Weeks have become months, and the world is ready to emerge from quarantine and be entertained by whatever life is like in the “new normal”. As I was searching for a quote to inspire me, I came across the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” lyrics above. I was a teenager in the early 1990’s when this song changed music, so I know it wasn’t written about a pandemic quarantine. But reading the lyrics makes me feel like it could have been, meaning Kurt Cobain is both a trendsetting rock icon and the Grunge Nostradamus.
As the quarantine ends and economies around the world reopen, I see an opportunity to redefine the workplace using the lessons I discussed in my last post. While science and medicine will certainly have their say in this definition, we can channel our inner Nostradamus and try to predict what the future should hold. This examination of both the rights of employees and the responsibilities of leaders will be critical to success of businesses and organizations in the “New Normal”, and I have identified 5 areas of opportunity where positive changes can be made to the workplace.
Safety - The viral outbreak of COVID-19 affected many people, including essential workers in places such as hospitals, meatpacking plants, and nursing homes. While commitment to serving the customer is important, an employers #1 responsibility is to ensure the safety of their employees.
Empathy, Compassion, & Mental Health - In addition to the importance of safety from physical harm, an increased focus on the mental health of workers deserves just as much attention. People everywhere worry about both the present and the future, and the time they spend at work shouldn’t exacerbate those fears, but rather serve to support those most in need. This cannot be done without an intentional assessment of workplace culture and the support of empathetic and compassionate leaders and teammates.
Communication - I mentioned this in my last post. It is strange how an era of “social distancing” and isolation also created a system with more connection due to frequent (and often more effective) communication. While our need to share information and invite feedback was increased due to physical distancing, these behaviors should be nurtured and continue to grow in both the virtual and physical realities of the “New Normal”.
Clarity & Focus - COVID created an environment where many businesses were forced to reduce services to focus on a few key activities. This brought clarity to Mission Statements, allowing employees to spend their time and energy on fewer projects while achieving better execution and efficiency. Going forward, leaders would be wise to provide the same level of clarity and focus in order to continue the momentum created.
Utilize Strengths - In a crisis, job descriptions were thrown out the window and employees were forced to assume new roles, exposing talent that was being underutilized in the process. Leaders should take this opportunity to decide how to BEST utilize the special skills and talents of their team, and let them continue to flourish post-COVID.
I'd ask you to take stock of the last 60+ days and look forward to the next 60. Are there areas of opportunity for the workplace to be found? I hope you see as much promise as I do.
Looking toward the future...