Dussehra Special: The post-pandemic renewal
A year and a half after the onset of the pandemic, we have begun taking tentative steps towards normalcy as the viral infection ebbs.. The global economy seems to be on the mend, even if the recovery is uneven as the novel coronavirus continues to wax and wane amid vaccine inequality.. The virus that swept the world, snuffing out lives and wounding businesses, also offered us an opportunity to reflect, learn, and renew our collective faith in order to emerge stronger. We have endured the pandemic with dignity and fortitude, and reached a stage where the decisions we take and the path we chart will determine our success, individual as well as organisational. Individuals and organisations betrayed exemplary virtues such as resilience during the crisis. As we gradually emerge from it, we need more of these qualities that inspire everyone to face uncertainties with conviction and pledge to build a greener, more inclusive and more resilient tomorrow.
As we celebrate Dussehra, one of the most important Indian festivals,, let’s use this pious occasion to spread positivity and renew our faith. The festive occasion should help us envision a corporate world imbued with trust, autonomy, well-being and endless possibilities.
This piece lists out five priorities to help lead our renewal journey and reset the future-of-work agenda.
Renewing Faith In Talent
Not that organisations did not have faith in their talent before the pandemic, but the last 19 months have led to a complete revalidation and reaffirmation of the same. The abrupt pandemic-led changes and adjustments that global business models underwent prompted organisations to put people and employee experience at the center of everything again. Organisations, long used to controlling and monitoring their employees, had to place their complete faith in their employees and trusted them to deliver regardless of where they worked from. Organisations that had earlier shied away from offering flexibility to employees were, after the pandemic-led lockdown, more than willing to go all the way to ensure optimum working conditions for employees. The past months have seen organisations reshaping employee experience with renewed vigour.
And this renewal ought to continue. Organisations need to continue on this path of overhauling employee experience to build a more employee-friendly and future-forward environment that creates opportunities for a holistic growth of individuals and helps them align their purpose with that of the organisation.
Renewing Our Faith In Autonomy, Trust
'How do we know if the people who are working from home or anywhere are actually working?'
The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, also laid bare the crisis of trust. Leaders could no longer 'keep an eye' on the employees. Most progressive organisations, however, soon realised the need to build a culture of trust.
With the right ecosystem in place, challenges and opportunities to explore, and an efficient distribution of work, leaders and HR teams could ensure everyone in the team had the ability to work from anywhere. But the more difficult aspect of this arrangement of remote work was trust.. And there is no mechanism or monitoring technology that can build this trust.
When the lockdown began in the Spring of 2020, everyone in their organisation, irrespective of where they were placed in the office hierarchy , gave one another the benefit of doubt. In due course, it gave way to mutual trust. And the impact that trust can have was soon visible in the jump in productivity that organisations reported.
Trusting everyone in the hybrid work model becomes easier as employees take ownership of their own productivity. With clear ownership and accountability of deliverables, balanced with feasible and achievable workload, employees feel independent and more responsible.
Renewing Our Faith In Teamwork
The pandemic completely transformed the way we communicated and collaborated. With our teammates no longer within shouting distance or a hand wave away, the virtual medium became our go-to mechanism for support as well as collaboration. Isolated within the confines of our homes, companies have had to make use of several strategies to ensure that everyone was digitally accessible. It’s no longer simply about the employees who were already a part of the company, but also about the new hires. Everyone needed to feel like they belonged and everyone needed to know that there was a helping hand whenever needed. The deep need for teamwork, which surfaced during the crisis to keep business operations going, is now thriving with much vigour. This is because of the emphasis that leaders placed on the need to ‘connect.’ It was no longer simply about achieving business growth, but about sustaining the organisational culture.
Although we’re still far removed from watercooler conversations and boardroom meetings, leaders and employees must work together to ensure that everyone in the team feels a sense of belonging and that tasks are performed and goals achieved. Open channels of communication, space for vulnerability, sincerity and an endless desire to support each other will go a long way in helping us on this new and unprecedented journey.
Renewing Our Faith In Holistic Wellbeing
If there’s one big focus pillar that the pandemic left us with, it is that health and wellbeing are critical to business sustainability. The past 19 months have left companies with a range of health and wellness priorities to seriously consider. From tackling mental health issues, ensuring physical health and safety, emotional and financial security and even tackling digital fatigue arising from prolonged isolation and a lack of face-to-face interaction with colleagues, there is a need for a multi-pronged approach to tackling the problem.
Even as technology evolves to meet the myriad wellbeing challenges that organisations face, it’s the human connect that is going to revive the workplace.
Renewing Our Faith In Lifelong, Anywhere Learning
E-learning generated much debate during the pre-pandemic era, when students were spoilt for choice for university admissions. For employees and employers alike, an e-learning course was not yet a primary choice but an option. After all, the 'ever so popular' open universities did offer you a chance to study from any part of the world, yet they were looked at with suspicion. Scammers made it worse, as parents and professionals turned wary of paying for a course which they could find in local institutions and colleges.
While the pandemic pushed everything else into a metaphorical coma, it jumpstarted online learning like never before. Skilled professionals felt an urge to learn and upskill while students were dived into online classes. Zoom and Google Meet became the new tools of learning. Suddenly, but also expectedly, online learning became a rage. An assortment of institutions started offering learning programmes that could be accessed on hand-held devices from any part of the world..
A post-pandemic world will require new skills and capabilities to navigate. Professionals and learners are upskilling themselves by accessing knowledge from anywhere. Organisational policies are being updated. The pandemic has exacted a heavy toll, but has also renewed our faith in 'learning from anywhere'. As the virus retreats, it reminds us that the only way to future-proof ourselves is to constantly learn and upgrade ourselves.