The adverse effects on humanity, society, culture, and economy of the COVID-19 pandemic have been well-documented and we all are working to assess the effects of COVID-19 on different economies, international business, components such as – supply chain management, import, export, point of sales, marketing & communication. The other critical aspect to focus on is what will be the course of evolution, the way we as individuals will carry out basic tasks and functions across different spectrums. We all know that people, process, and profitability are the key ingredients of a successful business, along with agility when life was normal, now we need to find agility with remote working a key ingredient of our lives.
It is quite safe to say that this crisis has rattled workforces to the core. Organisation processes and protocols are seeing complete restructuring with remote working now the norm across businesses. The environment and ambience of a physical workplace should not be understated when evaluating workforce morale and motivation. Human interaction, body language, and raw emotion are essential cogs of organisation culture. On the surface, virtual communication & collaboration seems to be quicker and more efficient, but this is leading us to ignore key elements of interaction such as compassion, empathy, bonding, and at base, real communication!
Without the smooth interactions with colleagues facilitated by frequent, in-person team meetings, meals, and coffee/ tea breaks, it is becoming increasingly tougher to sustain the kind of companionship, community, and belief that comes more easily with physical workspaces. It takes effort from a leader’s side to harness an integrated experience, promote bonding among existing team members, or even onboarding new ones. After deep thought, observation, and consultation with my partners, workforce, and fellow business leaders, I feel we can evaluate these 5 key elements to help revive the physical charm of culture and humanity-
A brief inspection and synchronisation of team members’ activities and tasks for the day can go a long way in ensuring minimum ambiguity amongst the workforce while maintaining motivation levels. This activity also helps us leaders streamline cross-team collaboration with increased transparency being the key. With the lack of corridor talk or quick five-minute physical catch ups, this synchronisation becomes more important in curtailing doubt and obscurity – aspects which foster negativity. Technology and automation can be used for these synchronisations, and even for maintaining daily task logs and responsibility tables to save time and increase efficiency.
The Age of Technology & Automation
Most of us have explored innovative forms of technology and automation in a few processes of ours across finance, HR, marketing etc. However, now is truly the time to embrace it as the backbone of the organisation. Synchronisation meetings explained in the point above can benefit a whole lot by using software and technologies to record daily task logs across different departments. My workforce and leadership team have effectively made use of Basecamp – a project management and team communication software. This has helped us lower dependency on each other with a centralised and easy-to-use platform for important data and reports. Since we’re in the consultancy business, this has also reduced redundant back and forth on both an internal and external level.
This process should be made as engaging and high-spirited as possible, without adding any extra burden or stress for the workforce. Individuals work at their best when they feel valued or appreciated, and amid the whole virtual working phenomena, appraisal & praise can often be missed out without the lack of human body language and attitude.
Cultivate Virtual Bonding/Morale
Most of the morale bonding exercises such as informal social events post work, casual lunches, or even the quick morning catch ups over a coffee were key characteristics of corporate/professional worlds pre-crisis. While these interactions cannot be replicated in a virtual world, efforts can definitely be made to at least rekindle similar emotions. Informal discussions amongst the workforce about personal life and problems can still be done, while even periodic bonding sessions over beverages post work on video calls can help lighten the mood and help us all connect on a human level once again.
Leaders Don’t Manage – They Lead
The ones at the top must take up the mantle in setting an example in this new normal. My partners and I cannot expect our workforce to operate smoothly without hiccups if we ourselves are not showing them the path. Leaders are facing a defining period in which we will need to integrate resilience in the workforce through collaboration and tap avenues of hope, trust, and optimism in order to spur creativity and build momentum for the future. Purposeful communication will channel positive sentiments and encourage a sense of broader community which will build that momentum.
The larger macro-environment issues are prevalent and will be for a while. The outcome of the lockdown and its impact on ‘the new normal ‘is far from being controllable and predictable. What can be controlled and worked on however, is the relevance of a positive, constructive, and buoyant internal environment and culture amongst teams. Leaders have always seemed to have a luxury of failure when innovating, however, with this crisis, that luxury is no more.
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