History will define 2020 as the year of the pandemic, chronicling events as living in the time of COVID-19. There are so many buzz words that gripped us this year: pivot, hibernate, put on ice, and the “new normal,” which is one that really grates on me.
But, the more I heard these words, the more I started thinking about what it actually means. It means different things to different people, businesses, families, societies, and countries. It’s telling us, “we are entering a major change in the way we live.”
As a Director of HR, the months since March have been gruelling, both professionally and personally. Being the optimist that I am, I want to start thinking about what I can learn from this experience and what changes I can implement in our business to help us survive and thrive in this new normal.
In a matter of weeks, we have had to adjust to working from home, social distancing, lockdowns, and home isolation. Some of us were lucky enough to have the experience of working from home on a regular basis, but to a lot of people, it was a new concept. It was almost unheard of to have the entire workforce working remotely.
I know for certain that before the pandemic hit, there was no way we would have had a work-from-home policy drafted, approved, and distributed in one day, let alone fully implemented within a week. It goes to show how agile and adaptive we can be when required.
This got me thinking about the recent investments we made into renovating our offices with new modern office designs, including collaboration spaces, breakout areas, pantry facilities, team zoning, etc. All are (or maybe were) considered part of an innovative technology workplace -the home away from home- that helps attract the best talent in the market. These workspaces epitomize our culture and corporate branding.
But do we really need our office environment? Have these last few months indicated that we can be just as effective working remotely as we can with these modern workplace tools? In our business, I feel it’s too short of a time to effectively measure this, but I know that we are definitely asking the right questions.
As an HR Director, the goal has always been to attract, retain, and engage a workforce with the highest productivity and performance. This is no easy task. But can we achieve this when working remotely? Can we still be engaged and motivated and deliver the best business results when we aren’t physically together?
The global teams, based in various locations, mastered this way of working before the pandemic. However, a lot of businesses still maintain a very traditional way of working with big corporate offices. Are we, as a population, brave enough to turn this on its head?
It would change how our cities are built and designed - there is no secret that corporate office towers are one of the greatest energy-zappers on the planet. It would change how we design our homes, our transportation systems, our energy, utilities - the changes are endless. Can one pandemic transform the world?
Is the corporate world ready for this significant shift? Or will we simply move back into our corporate spaces and talk about the days when we all worked from home during the global pandemic and laugh about doing a load of laundry between meetings, our pets getting fitter, and so on... So, the question we must ask is: will this year simply be a distant memory?
I have always believed in the notion that out of crisis comes opportunity. There is no better example in the world right now about how we can turn a crisis into an opportunity to reshape the future of work. As business leaders and HR professionals, we may not have the answers just yet, but the answers will come from asking the right questions.
While we may not have all the answers, we have to start asking the right questions and adapting to our new normal. Let’s open our minds and challenge ourselves to not only think differently but be brave enough to change the future.
There were so many silver-linings in 2020, so many unexpected developments that challenged and stretched us, enabling our growth, and we persisted and learned what we’re made of. We’ve made it this far, and we’re still navigating this time of uncertainty. The only thing I know is that we have the strength and stamina to go a little further to get to the other side of this as transformed, changed, and better humans for it.
Global HR Director