In a recent Forbes article Tracey Brower made ‘5 Predictions About How Coronavirus Will Change The Future Of Work’.
One prediction is that ‘Your boss and teammates will be more empathetic about your work-life’. Brower claims, ‘After having been home so much….managers and colleagues will have new respect for life’s demands, and appreciation for all-things family. They will more deeply understand what it takes to orchestrate your personal life... In addition, they will have a refreshed level of appreciation for the ways family and friends are critical to life and happiness.’
This assumption implies Managers and colleagues had never considered prior to Covoid-19, the importance of family and friends and the factors which contribute to happiness. Surely every employee has had to juggle employment and life’s demands, so this aspect of work-life cannot be a new revelation? Managers with a high level of emotional intelligence, particularly in the competency of empathy will have already recognized such facts and offered as much flexibility in working arrangements as they could within the boundaries of operational demands and workplace policies. I doubt that Managers, who previously were considered to be apathetic, would without training and coaching have developed this trait within the suite of emotional intelligence competencies.
I suggest that what will be different within the new paradigm of ‘a normal workplace’ will be a change in both how businesses operate and workplace policies, thus allowing staff to apply for even greater flexibility in their working arrangements than they previously were entitled to request.
Staff will therefore be able to raise legitimate grievances against Managers who have not followed the new workplace policy regarding flexible working arrangements.
I also suggest that staff may believe they are now entitled to the same level of flexibility they enjoyed during the ‘work from home’ period and may therefore feel aggrieved when the business can no longer offer the same conditions and rejects what will be considered, in the ‘new normal’, to be unrealistic.
It can be foreseen that without clear communication relating to business expectations for employees, the formalization of new business operational procedures and training in new workplace policies, tensions between staff and Managers could quickly escalate.
To avoid this unnecessary angst, headache and workload for all involved (particularly Human Resource or People and Culture Departments), we recommend organisations give considered discussion to the merits of:
- (Sooner rather than later) forming a strategic plan to capture input from all staff about how business operations and flexible working arrangements should and can be more efficient and effective in the ‘new normal’;
- Promptly developing new ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOPs) and updated workplace policies;
- Training all staff in the new SOPs and policies;
- Providing leadership training for all Managers, particularly in the areas of developing emotional intelligence, conflict management skills and improved communication skills (in regards to communicating the new expectations and holding ‘difficult conversations’ when coaching staff support staff to consistently meet these new expectations and adhere to policy).
Workplace Harmony offers practical support to assist in the business discussion at the Executive table, the collection and review of staff feedback, the development of new policies, the delivery of training and communication messaging to staff at each stage of the change process.