April 23, 2020
Even before the states sought an extension of the lockdown till April 30th in a meeting with Indian PM, Narendra Modi, the verdict was not just expected, it was anticipated. So, now as Indian players get ready to revise and extend their remote working policies, I can't help but question businesses’ readiness to wade through unchartered waters not just during the quarantine period but thereafter as the workforce transitions back to its old normal.
Below are some challenges I foresee that need a proactive vs. a reactive approach:
- 5 weeks (and potentially more!) of close confinement with family with zero socializing will take a toll on our mental health.
- Hours of being stuck to our makeshift work desk with no physical activity (the bare minimum was commuting to the workplace!) will fuel ill effects of sedentary lifestyle (read: cardiovascular diseases, obesity).
- The ease of getting your day started in your PJs, the lure of piping hot food, the cuddles from your children, the relief of not having to battle the traffic, the joy of doing things at your pace will be met by resistance as we set our clocks for early rising, pack lunch boxes, bid goodbye to our loved ones, drive to work and try to multitask.
- The sudden change in lifestyle will bring about a sea of new illnesses - caused by stress, increased workload.
- Businesses will try to play catch up with the losses endured necessitating the need to pack in more in our 9-5 schedule.
- The curve to unlearn Digital Transformation will be steeper than the time taken to adopt it.
- Digital Divide will not dissipate as companies that have made investments in IT will refrain from retracing their steps immediately.
While there is no cut and dried solution to this, a holistic training program that is not linked to job-related competencies alone but impacts behavior in all spheres of our lives is a potential remedy.
We asked the who’s who in HR, Learning and Development (L&D) and eLearning about their views:
Strategy is key
It is difficult to project a long term impact of something done under duress of some kind. While the current crisis has shown that the technology is in place to enable remote working it still needs to be seen if the adoption sustains beyond the forced lockdown. Whatever happens, the paradigm has definitely shifted for good. Remote working will definitely increase and it’s a good thing. Though it may have only been a success for a small portion of the workforce in any organization. Bigger the workforce, it has serious implications on overall business and it would need a well-crafted strategy to manage remote working in a less chaotic way.
Focus to be on Change Management
Change Management is often a topic that gets overlooked very easily because we tend to assume that ‘people will get adjusted no matter what’ and eventually they do but this can also be managed in a way that the change doesn’t hit us so hard which it mostly doe) - then let it be a new job and getting adjusted to a new work environment or colleagues trying to get used to a new member or an on-site employee trying to get adjusted in a foreign place OR us trying to cope up with this new “norm” of WFH. It’s going to be difficult when we get back to work as again the change will be sudden, as it was when we first started WFH. I think this can be eased out if we start preparing for this 1 week prior to getting back to work by: waking up at the time when we are supposed to daily, do our daily routine chores as we would have to, dressing up as we would for work and then of course wrapping up (and not extending as what we tend to do now) at the time we usually do. It might seem like a no-brainer solution but sometimes it’s the “little details” that help in Change management.
Be creative with Creative Thinking
A true test of times on how an organization handles the situation, business and care for its employees. On the other hand who are the true employees who take ownership and take additional responsibilities. There are advantages and disadvantages even during the crisis. Only the passionate and high-spirited makes use of the best in any given situation. This will only help to bring out the creative solutions to many problems.
Respond, Reset and Rebound
A rising tide raises all boats. In a storm, however, it helps to be in a bigger, better boat. While our minds are in a flux and getting accustomed to the new normal, there is also a sea of opportunity that makes us technology equipped, gainfully keep engaged with work tasks, children and even long lost passions & hobbies. As we embrace the simple and agile way of living our lives we can also begin planning how to Respond, Reset and Rebound!
While we decide to wear the 'creative' thinking hat as we wade through the oftentimes unforeseen and unprecedented curveballs through the day or we exercise change management regardless of the training assigned or not assigned, the answer is in the details. The lock down extension has indeed provided a good playing field to strengthen our digital transformation muscle and the tide is definitely in favor of technology, but the lynchpin to it is the organization culture. How are you skilling your workforce to build yours?