Aside from the title of this piece, the late German poet, novelist and playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, also told the world that, “we must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.”
While change is an expected and accepted part of life, the nature of transition foisted on the world by the coronavirus pandemic has not always turned out well. More particularly, the size and speed of change in workplace culture have sometimes forcefully broken with long-established practices.
This week, three media stories seemed to illustrate the challenges redolent of the hurried ways of conducting business in the Covid-19 environment. Without doubt, one of the principal lessons for the evolving workplace is that traditional compliance methods that foreground logic are no longer adequate. They can only reap better results if they are used in combination with communication strategies that appeal to emotion.
Various news items reported on the revised efficacy rate of the AstraZeneca vaccine at preventing Covid-19. The revised figure of 76% is slightly lower than the earlier published rate of 79%. The results of its US clinical trial had previously suffered a setback after being criticized as outdated.
In Europe, several countries temporarily suspended the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to examine new data after reports of blood-clotting incidents in some people. While Canada has said the vaccine is safe, it added a warning to the vaccine’s label about rare blood clots.
The Guardian newspaper reflected on alleged 18-hour shifts at the leading investment banking firm, Goldman Sachs. The story reported on the rising number of “aggrieved first-year” employees who are taking sick leave because of stress and burnout. The Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon agreed that there is a need to “hire more junior bankers, transfer staff, to stretched teams, and strengthen enforcement of a no-work-on-Saturday rule.”
James Thomas of Strategy and Business notes that, sometimes, “organizations globally have abandoned their fundamental working premise, ‘how things get done around here,’ in a matter of days.” I see in the examples above, the need to accept a workplace culture that accepts the fallibility of people. Experts argue that mistakes are “a natural process of systematically eliminating the things that do not work, to come closer to the ones that do.”
After a year of reassignments, retraining changed standard operating procedures, and shifting workload strains, only leaders and managers who are compassionate when assigning work can win the loyalty of both their teams and clients. Where they fail to be empathetic, it will not be surprising to find presenteeism, voluntary turnover, and unresolved conflicts becoming the regular characteristics of unfeeling and indifferent workplaces.
Successful team leaders of the future will be people who actively seek periodic feedback from their teams. Team reactions, resilience, recovery, and new realities will only succeed when undertaken as team sports. It goes without saying that humble and approachable team leaders will yield more winning strategies for their teams.
It is instructive to note that while working from home has given appearances of being a cost-saver, it is folly of the highest order to ignore the hidden costs of remote working. For many people, social isolation just does not work. Indeed, some people wryly note that there is a reason for using solitary confinement as punishment in prisons.
Future workplace incentive programmes should not only reward teams for hours worked without injury. They should equally encourage the creation of safe places for mental health. Conventionality and staleness had begun to threaten the viability of mental health awareness. The post-pandemic world puts mental well being back on centre stage.