It seems like everyone is talking about the New Normal, about returning to work, and about not doing things the old way.
Our UK CEO, Carl Ennis, has said on several occasions that he doesn’t want us to just return to work in the old ways if we can move quickly to a new and more productive normal.
That’s why in the UK, the conversation is partly about new digital tools and new apps to make virtual interactions more efficient, but also, it’s about people’s attitudes and behaviours.
Last year we launched Employee Led Flexibility (ELF) with all the perceived challenges that it was thought to bring. Remote working has always been seen by some as a hurdle to be overcome. Some traditional managers struggled to come to terms with not having daily face-to-face interactions with team members. Others took to ELF and started to develop new ways of working and really embraced the new flexibility it afforded.
The reality is that some new normal ideas are not that new to
us except in the way that they have been forced upon us because of Covid19.
The crisis has generated even more discussion about agile working, about digitalisation and about experimentation, all topics we’ve been looking at for several years now.
We acknowledged that all these words and phrases still meant different things to different people and so getting the views and ideas from everyone continued to be a crucial ingredient of defining our new normal.
Realistically how different would it really be when things finally started to feel like business as usual? Even the term BAU is quite meaningless at the moment and probably will be for some time.
Many of us will be desperate just to get on with things and get back to some sort of normality – any normal would be good – in fact, whatever normal becomes will be the NEW normal.
It’s what we make of the opportunity for change that matters.
The best way to predict the future is to create it“Peter Drucker
In the UK we felt there was a large part of our workforce that just wanted to get on with things. For others, there would be those who would be nervous and anxious about the future.
What will be the legacy of Covid-19? Will it be safe to go back to offices or to travel to other sites, conferences and events?
Concern over vulnerable children or elderly relatives will never be far from our thoughts and will hang over everyone’s minds, until we all feel there is some kind of reprieve from the risk of catching the infection.
Of those employees remaining, some might feel excited about changes that could come out of new ways of working and socialising, and generally interacting with others in different ways. For our Millennials who may see the current ways of working as more normal than others, there might be even more radical ideas yet to come that we cannot even think of right now.
Of course, we knew there would be some who would just want to rewind the clocks to the way it used to be, get back into offices, meetings in big groups, coffees in Starbucks, and big busy restaurants and cafeterias for lunchtime catch-ups… and perhaps there needs to be an element of this as well.
To look at this we set-up a challenge open to all employees
to help create, shape and design our future New Normal.
What do we really feel about returning to traditional office or factory work? And with that in mind, what ideas have we all got that satisfy our curiosity for a future that would be different?
We asked colleagues to share ideas about the IMMEDIATE needs of getting back to their workplace in the coming weeks, about the need to feel safe, or ways of ensuring social distancing could be maintained in team areas. We asked about re-evaluating jobs previously done and currently stopped due to the situation. How much needed to be restarted? And, we asked them to think about the medium and longer term, the Future of Work, Skills for the Future and all the other ideas we’ve explored and experimented with in our Employee Led Flexibility initiative over the last two years.
In most offices there will only be room to accommodate
roughly one third of normal workers due to necessary changes.
Perhaps different new working patterns or even shift working to achieve appropriate social distancing, including weekend working or night shifts for office workers; more part-time contracts, all ideas that might change the need for a regular coming together of employees in confined office environments needed to be considered.
Redefining job descriptions to be less about roles and more about outcomes and deliverables was another topic discussed. Considering new reward structures and strategies to encourage more radical ways of working differently.
Our New Normal challenge was managed on an ideation platform (The Innovation Portal) which enabled the effective collation and review of every idea coming in. We are at the start of the new normal journey, but we will certainly not be going backwards once we implement some of the great ideas from our employees.