6 recurring challenges that the current context brings to the fore
If someone had asked me a few years ago what my ideal job would look like, I would have answered without hesitation that I would like it to be a mix of working from the office, from a coffee shop and from home. I wished space wasn’t an issue as long as I delivered on time and was productive, because when I have that kind of benefit, I really feel like I have a win-win collaboration with my employer.
The vast majority of the challenges that the current context brings to the fore are not new at all. In fact, key themes such as change, remote working, innovation, stress and burnout or mindset have been on everyone’s lips for years.
But let’s take them one by one:
1) Change, the only constant
Throughout my career in organisations, change has been the only constant: reorganisations, moving operations from one country to another, acquisitions, spin-offs or accelerated growth…all of these have had a significant impact on the way we work and therefore on the space. I often ended up working in an overcrowded office without the option of working from home. As I witnessed more and more transformations, my need to work somewhere other than the office became more important for me. But something was missing: flexibility and a vote of confidence from management.
2) Remote working and the vote of confidence
In addition to the impact on space, revolutions within organisations have defragmented and reshaped work structures and processes. Virtual teams and matrix companies have emerged, all leading to new demands from employers.
I then realized that working in such a context without flexibility on both sides no longer works. It wasn’t enough anymore for me to adapt my schedule to the context, time zone and volume but I also needed my employer to take into account my challenges and needs.
3) Employees’ need to be recognised for their effort and productivity
With no choice but to respond to new demands, many employees have rolled up their sleeves and adapted accordingly. The new context brings more transparency to what is happening both within the organisation and within teams.
The fact that the shift to remote working has not affected productivity levels is not necessarily a surprise. It is, in fact, meeting the needs of those who were productive and whose efforts were not seen and recognised. When I am granted the freedom to organise myself, my employer treats me as a responsible adult who achieves his/her goals regardless of the context.
Innovation takes creativity, time, lots of experimentation and money. More often than not, however, the message from leadership was “Make no mistakes”. Because it’s reflected in the KPIs, because it affects our image, reputation, budget and career opportunities.
In an environment where perfectionism reigns, any attempt at innovation is stifled and only puts additional pressure on an environment where stress was already present.
5) Crisis situations and stress
In many organisations, crisis is experienced on a daily basis and it is often generated by low-stake situations. Precisely because stress, pressure and burnout have been in the picture for years. And while most companies have prepared for major crisis from a financial and strategic point of view, they have not equipped their people with the tools that can help them in such situations.
It is now that we are discovering that soft skills are not soft at all, but they can make the difference between success and failure. Communication, tolerance, trust and patience are just a few of the resources that we need in such situations. Last but not least, we need the courage to invest in the invisible power of mindset change, so underestimated by many companies prior to the crisis.
In my experience, our thinking model often fails to keep the pace with the crazy shifts that are happening. We have all sorts of resistances, habits and fears that hold us back, even when they no longer serve us. Not to mention that we often lead our lives with the expectation that circumstances and others should change rather than us.
Businesses which had a mindset that embraced change and which didn’t put off reorganizations, most probably had a smooth transition. Companies who neglected the need of employees to have more flexibility, will probably have to work hard with their own mindset. Organizations who continue to believe that a group of people in the office is a team, will be in for surprises.
During such a time of gains and losses, it is essential to take an honest look at reality as it is and understand what works and what doesn’t. Throughout the process of understanding our past mistakes it is essential to add a great deal of openness and compassion for the version of ourselves as an employee, employer, boss or entrepreneur that didn’t know any better.
If you are ready to put your cards on the table for the first time in many years, know that this is a moment that sets the stage for a brand new chapter.
Last but not least, a strong beginning needs a great question:
What is the way forward?