Covid-19 crisis has disrupted the workplace like never before. But, every crisis also has the potential to be a valuable lesson. So, what are those valuable lessons? To find out, let’s hop on the boat with Harini and Sahil to learn how to sail through the COVID-19 storm and dance happily in the rain.
Just yesterday one asked another – how do you remain motivated all the time? She smiled and said, “Get yourself a home loan”. While that was on a lighter note, many of us sat back and wondered whether that was the best source of motivation. As I kept that call, another dear friend, Harini called and invited me to co-author an article with her and here we are.
My reflections continue from the earlier call – did she say it in zest, did a compulsion act as a motivator, and most importantly was that the best source of motivation for her?
Many of us have experienced various aspects of work that motivate us. Surely the last few months have changed the whole realm through which we look at things, our perspectives have undergone a sea change and while everyone claims to be an astrologer today, predicting the post-COVID-19 world isn’t going to help us in any way. A decade ago we spoke about the speed of change and now we have experienced the unprecedented nature of change. It’s important to go back to basics – theories of motivation written hundreds of decades ago which largely hold good even today. Layers of Maslow in words would only be replaced by emoticons today.
There are some fundamental questions we need to ask ourselves – are we studying the subjects of yesteryears to equip ourselves for the jobs of tomorrow and re-imagine a space that we aren’t even sure of because our mindsets a few months ago were just as rigid as decades ago? Has the quality of work significantly gone up the value chain? Across the value chain are people innovating or being forced to innovate in a reactive manner and thereby what are the implications of the same on employee motivation? Are people comfortable enough to voice how they feel or how the last few months have changed them as individuals or is job security an overarching sword ruling everyone’s lives? From an employees’ market to an employers’ market aren’t managers supposed to learn the new rules of the game? Are they able to inspire their teams remotely beyond playing online games and having informal drinking sessions on video calls?
Working in close proximity probably also had some side effects building up in the subconscious mind. In the post-COVID age when most of us may continue working remotely, the visibility of the other’s popularity is dimmed significantly. All that we would know is what the other can bring to the table. As if by magic co-creation of solutions seem to emerge. Warring team members could become allies and build on each other’s strengths. Physical distancing has given birth to emotional buddying!
It’s quite a different world out there, from getting the pulse on the floor to sensing the pulse miles away, from transitioning a simple “hello, how are you doing?” to asking, “is it a good time, are you comfortably placed for us to speak?”. The ability to lead without hand-holding yet leaving the team with the feeling that you have their back is very important.
Many of this unfortunately isn’t taught in academia and neither on the job. It isn’t a hard skill to learn neither is it a hard skill to practice. It’s all about a mindset. Do you have it in you? Do you have it in you to be someone’s ally, to go ahead and appreciate a colleague in front of the entire team? Play a pivotal role in helping build on each other’s strengths? Allowing innovation to flourish without being insecure about who gets the credit or tops the motivation charts? Is your source of motivation the house that you made a home or the EMI that trapped you to the job you never loved?
Amidst the frustration of the day jobs we are sometimes trapped in, and having to sail through the pandemic storm safely, we have been telling ourselves that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even when the tunnel is seemingly growing longer than we expected, we have decided to brace ourselves to emerge bravely into the sunshine. Isn’t this a mindset change? What has been the trigger?
Picking a thread from Sahil’s thoughts, my observations of behaviours at the workplace tell an interesting story. Has physical distancing brought co-workers closer? Working in close proximity probably also had some side effects building up in the subconscious mind. I remember an incident when two of my team members refused to collaborate because they were envious of each other’s public praise! In the post-COVID age when most of us may continue working remotely, the visibility of the other’s popularity is dimmed significantly. All that we would know is what the other can bring to the table. As if by magic co-creation of solutions seem to emerge. Warring team members could become allies and build on each other’s strengths. Physical distancing has given birth to emotional buddying!
The interpersonal dynamics won’t stop being between individuals. It will spread faster and wider than the pandemic and get extrapolated to teams that are remote and scattered. It is great if organisations test positive for this fever as it would have yet another amazing effect on decision making. What used to be excused in the past, like unavailability of data, resources and sometimes even the manager’s time, will now start transforming progressively towards collaborative decision making. Time, tide and decisions wait for none. Move away unnecessary approvals and hierarchy, we have no time for you. The power of collective wisdom is here and is sure to stay!
Co-workers bond, problems would get resolved without intervention by the manager, work will just get done seamlessly, the trust will prevail, and there will be positivity at the workplace. Hey, wait! Did someone remark managers are not required anymore Well, of course, dear managers! You could well become history! But remember, your teams are not going to let you go away so easily. You will have to reinvent yourself as coaches. Show the goal, get ideas from your teams, communicate with clarity and lead by example. Your teams have begun to understand the art of dancing in ballet without stepping on each other’s shoes. Each one brings along different experiences and different learnings. Working from different homes in different cities or even different countries adds colours of cognitive diversity in teams. Won’t you be thrilled with the innovative ideas buzzing in your mailbox? Life turns a new leaf every day, sometimes there are dark clouds and sometimes bright sunshine. With all the bright reflections that we have shared, as the storm ends it sure looks like a cloudburst out there! But we have nothing to worry, we have sailed bravely in the storm for almost 6 months, we will now happily dance in the rain!