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These are profoundly uncertain times. Covid-19 is spreading with frightening speed and all of us - governments, businesses, and individuals - are attempting to understand how best to respond.
The immediate issue is, of course, the impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and that needs to be everyone’s priority. Beyond the immediate crisis, it is difficult to predict how quickly the global economy will recover from this situation and how soon we will be able to return to some kind of normality.
However, that normality is likely to be different to what we were used to and, as part of that, this is likely the beginning of a fundamental transformation in the world of work.
So, what will be the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and work? And how can we prepare for the inevitable labour market evolution when the crisis has passed?
Now is the time for employers to lean in and get ahead of the curve on labour market transformation. The businesses that will flourish in a post-pandemic world are those with the most resilient workforce.
Although the situation continues to evolve daily, we can already point to three emerging trends and issues:
Remote working is here to stay
As businesses strive to maintain continuity, "working from home" is becoming the new normal, and I am convinced that remote working is here to stay.
This will lead to a myriad of workplace changes impacting teamwork, productivity, collaboration, and communication which will force us to ask some questions about how well we were really leveraging virtual technology before the coronavirus hit.
Research shows that working virtually can drive productivity improvements of up to 43% but it must be done effectively. Many businesses have resisted home working for various reasons but the current crisis might well have proven to them that it can work.
So this is the time to reskill and upskill your people to operate more effectively in a more virtual world, and in line with the industry trends I mentioned earlier. We are already in the era of the reskilling revolution and the pandemic will only accelerate the need to upgrade the digital skills of our workforce in preparation for a major shift in how businesses operate.
Managers need to agree on new rules of engagement with their team members to incorporate routines and rituals that support connection, collaboration, productivity and wellbeing such as daily virtual huddles and more frequent check-ins.
In tandem with digital skilling and improved infrastructure, corporate culture toward remote working must also evolve to support this practice. It should be modelled and reinforced from the top to ensure that there is no fear of backlash at lower levels.
Leadership skills will evolve
The mettle of any leader is truly tested in a crisis. And this is a rare challenge.
We have known for some time that there is an evolution of leadership skills underway, as transformation and disruption become the new normal.
The pandemic is now amplifying the need for a new set of leadership skills and capabilities. Why? Because in the post-pandemic era we will work in a totally different way. Pre-pandemic, the majority of companies had workers under one roof – or in the case of multi-nationals – under a number of large roofs. In the post-pandemic world, where remote working becomes the new normal, leaders must learn how to lead remotely, instead of centrally.
Leaders will need a new toolbox for the leadership of a remote workforce. A few organisational fundamentals will be critical for leaders to align, motivate, and closely track projects and performance. These include: a strong culture; deeply ingrained values; excellent communication skills; and comprehensive reporting capabilities, systems and processes.
And on the soft skills side, leaders who will succeed in navigating their organisations through the change ahead are those who are agile, externally orientated, have a mindset that adopts disruption, and possess relationship-building skills that can build inclusion across diverse teams and geographies.
The need for a new Social Contract is greater than ever
The changing labour market has increased the number of flexible workers but the pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of these workers in a crisis.
It is encouraging to see some governments applying statutory sick pay to self-employed or gig economy workers, as well as those companies that are extending protection to their freelance or temporary staff. However, these emergency measures highlight something we have been advocating for some time now: we need a new social contract to ensure that all workers, particularly those in diverse forms of work, have the social safety net they need.
At this point, it is difficult to see an end to the current crisis. Nobody knows how long it will last or how many people will ultimately be affected.
What is clearer is that when the world comes out on the other side, the way we work will be changed forever. With consideration and planning, businesses and individuals can prepare themselves to be at the front of the curve.
This article was previously published on LinkedIn and is reproduced with permission
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