What warring nations and social unrest hasn’t done, this mighty contagion has. Foreboding as it may sound, humankind and all of its social systems, as we know, are on the rails of transformation. And also on its knees. While institutionally these are large, tectonic shifts, accounted by leadership, a world body, political or otherwise, what in our realms of work and career, is going to mutate from what we knew they were, prior to COVID-19?
The first is the legitimacy of WFH and the accompanying telecommuting. From a perk to a mandate, people working from home for the first time are doing so without the benefit of proper technology or training in how best to do it. So the first thing Barbara Zepp Larson has been advising (which she also tells herself) is to relax a little—this is just going to be ugly for a little while. While WHF in its current avatar is a reaction to the threat of the pandemic, her word of caution to managers and leaders is to be mindful to not draw conclusions about WFH on the basis of the current circumstances.
Yes, the business sentiment is depressed, the mental adjustments aren’t in place and the support infrastructure for an efficient WFH is far from decent. As a proof of concept, even in the present haphazard format, WFH is somewhat delivering. For start-ups, like the one where Prachi Panda works, the positive response to this WFH experiment has encouraged her teams to figure which day in the week is best designated as the ‘Official WFH Day’. Productivity combined with flexibility is an appealing proposition.
As Abhilasha Jha says, the next step for businesses once the threat of the pandemic is reigned in, will be to invest in process, infrastructure and guidelines to institutionalise WFH and telecommuting. COVID19 has forced businesses to prototype and experiment with this mode of working. While this is the time for personal reflection, she attributes the collective wisdom of her partners that drive changes in the business strategy. Conversations that are stirring for the path ahead include technology-focussed solutions, incorporating technology-led offerings that can withstand the winds of change.
Operating out of Singapore, a country known to respond to crises with minimum disruption, and working with advisors gives Mariko Braswell an edge in dealing with the near apocalypse that the pandemic is causing. While the past couple weeks were a bit of an unintentional pause as the catastrophe escalated, she is now recalibrated to move ahead.
On the new tomorrow, that is going to be a different world, Rachele Focardi says, in a very matter-of-fact tone, we are in a new economic curve, where things go up and things go down. Rachele was working at Universim during the 2008 crisis. She happened to be in an office with Lehman Brothers two days before they disappeared. Doomsday, it was declared. But businesses resumed. COVID-19 is irreversible and a world-changing lever. Rachele views this phase as one with transformative moments that are catalysts to change, which she believes need to be embraced for what they are right now and in it she carries the hope of a better world, looming in the horizon.
Zarina Stanford throws a new spin on COVID-19. That systems and processes that delivered success in the past aren’t the only ways to deal with current challenges. What are the new, emergent trends from countries that may not be great powers but have the best practises to deal with this mighty virus? How can their response mechanisms be tweaked to manage the devastation in other countries? We can learn from each other, Zarina says, making examples of South Korea, Hongkong and Singapore. Truly, the pandemic has further democratised learning and leadership.
Having worked in practically all scenarios—in office, at home, on the road, in home country and on foreign shores, Zarina is more agile than most workers. Her advice is to change perspective as much as possible, and learn how to welcome and embrace disruption. Disruption, she says, is often the source of creativity and innovation.
(The article is part of a series of perspectives as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown)