The world as we knew it has changed. A quickly spreading virus named corona has forced governments around the world to shut down businesses, to close schools, and to block borders in order to save human lives. The healthcare workers and other employees in critical sectors are working around the clock while other people have been laid off from their jobs or are worried about losing their businesses. To many, the fear of getting or spreading the virus is causing stress and anxiety. An increasing number of people have lost a loved one or are fighting the disease themselves.
Yes, there is no question that this epidemic is going to do a lot of damage before it is over. But despite all the pieces of sad news that directly impact so many of us, could we see something good coming out of this?
Here are two positives for organizations that I believe the current situation can lead to. What is your silver lining?
New Ways of Working Emerge
In many companies, the old and familiar ways of doing things have become obsolete when people suddenly cannot meet face-to-face. Obviously, this situation gives us two options: either we can give up since things are not working OR we can find an alternative way of getting things done. For example, my Work Engagement Program includes two interactive workshops. Before the corona outbreak, I had considered offering the Program online. However, I decided that this will not make sense as interaction and idea generation are such an important part of the workshops and they are best to be conducted face-to-face. Fast-forward a few weeks and the Program can now be delivered 100% online. I have also seen teams establish weekly virtual coffee breaks and happy hours together, companies put new processes in place to conduct meetings efficiently, and entrepreneurs develop totally new services.
The situation is, of course, most difficult for people in professions that cannot be conducted remotely. Usually, these are non-desk jobs. How do you cut someone’s hair, give a massage, or serve a meal or a drink if not in person? Many of these companies are trying to keep things moving by selling gift cards and offering delivery options. But could a hairdresser also sell a basic hair braiding or cutting course? Or could a massage therapist offer video call stretching sessions for people working in not-so-ergonomic conditions? And could a bar organize a virtual night out? Not the same, I get it, but a totally new situation requires totally new solutions.
The digital disruption that has been such a buzzword for several years seems to be happening now. And based on what I have seen, it comes from PEOPLE finding new, creative ways of working. Not from buying a bunch of fancy technology and saying that the company is now disruptive. Digital tools are obviously needed in remote work but with a little bit of creativity, you can make use of a basic set of tools. What we see today is true innovation and will mark the way we work even after this is all over.
Organizational Values Become a Reality
Remember those values that are taped on the office wall? Collaboration, communication, transparency, responsibility… Sound familiar? Challenges bring out the true colors of an organization, and employees can see whether those values are just pretty words on the wall or the real culture.
The current situation is difficult for the business but it is also difficult for individual employees. Some have kids studying from home, some are locked in a small apartment by themselves not being able to see their friends or practice their hobbies, and some are struggling financially, fearing to lose their job. The way that an organization considers (or doesn’t consider) their employees under these difficult circumstances makes the true values visible.
Therefore, it ca really make a difference if you are understanding when there is a toddler playing in the background of a conference call or a team member cannot always pick up the phone during the regular office hours. Finding ways for the team to keep in touch and having regular one-on-ones with each team member can help increase the social interaction remotely. And even though layoffs were inevitable in some sectors, there are still different ways of communicating and conducting them. It is all about the little things and acts of kindness.
Once the outbreak is over, every employees will remember how their employer responded under the extreme circumstances. In the best case scenario, you have shown that your values actually mean something and you will have a workforce that is more motivated and loyal than ever.
Indeed, a difficult time, such as the one we are living right now, can also offer opportunities. We just need to be willing to see them. Albus Dumbledore summarizes it the best in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the movie):
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
What thoughts give you hope for the future? Tell us in the comments or send me a note here.
Note: This article is NOT meant as any kind of guideline for the current situation. I am not a nurse, a doctor, or a government representative of any country. 🙂 Refer to the appropriate authorities for guidelines and stay safe.