Changing back to ‘normal’
It is difficult to place where we are on the Coronavirus cycle. Maybe we are in the middle of the pandemic cycle with the worst behind us or with new variants, worse may be to come. Wherever we are, commentators are beginning to ponder when will we be back to normal and what exactly will ‘normal’ look like.
Will home become the new office or an adjunct to what was the office? Certainly, commercial property prices in many of our finest cities indicate workplaces bulging with workers could be a thing of the past. As a further sign, Transport for London has said that it may be a long time before usage of buses and its famous tube returns to pre-COVID levels.
The expansion in the digitalisation of work is perhaps one feature we can be sure of if only because it was probably going to happen anyway; COVID has merely speeded it up. Today, employees can and are, working not only from home but from the beach or holiday resort. What was once the preserve of the elite is quickly becoming the working practice for the many with profound implications for sourcing talent, functionality, and accountability.
CEOs have traditionally loved talking about ‘change’ and how they, by their smart endeavours, bring it about. Stimulating change has been part of the added-value fare they bring, helping the business to keep ahead of the curve, responding to new opportunities and efficiencies. Despite its apparent benefits, change when forced on workers, has often been a source of stress and unhappiness.
In the COVID (or post-COVID) era, change is likely to be as much a factor of external forces and even employee empowerment as it is by CEO choice. Managing change rather than stimulating it may be the most difficult test for the CEO of the future.
If employers are to motivate employees – especially those who have become used to working away from the office – they will need to ensure meaningful involvement in designing the new normal. If not, both employers and employees will find foresight in the words of Queen Victoria, “change, why do we need change? Aren’t things bad enough as it is?”