There is a new global reality in the world of work, a massive shift in paradigm not seen since the Industrial Revolution.
Covid has created a worldwide workplace crisis. One definition of a crisis is a situation that has the potential to become disastrous and another defines a crisis as the point of transition from one state to another. Both are equally true for Covid.
During the last two years, millions of us have changed our work patterns and routines, focusing far more on home working, flexible hours, using technology to communicate with our colleagues, and staying in touch with day-to-day business. Whilst there are some occupations that are – and for the foreseeable future will remain – hands-on, most employees have shown that working remotely is a flexible, successful, and highly cost-effective way of working, given appropriate technological support.
Huge numbers of organizations are adopting hybrid working as the model for the workplace. The hybrid model varies from organization to organization and sector to sector, but the key theme is the same – work from home for some or even all your employment hours. Employers and employees are now evaluating the huge significance of this rapid change.
Covid has reminded us of all of our humanity. It has shone a light, sometimes uncomfortably, on our values and what is important to us as individuals. Many have lost their jobs, businesses, and sadly many have been bereaved. We are all re-assessing how we want to live our lives, and how we want to work.
From the employers’ perspective, there needs to be a radical shift away from the office working towards improved employee access to technology for effective remote working. Employment contracts and work design need to be updated to meet the new realities of online workplaces. But designing remote working processes and contracts and developing technological solutions are the easy part and can be done quite rapidly. Crucially, organizations must also change their psychological contract with their staff.
Covid has made us all reassess what is important in our lives, and organizations under-estimate this profound re-appraisal at their peril. Shifting the psychological contract will take much longer, perhaps several years, and involve a significant move towards values-led, high integrity organizations that place a premium on employee empowerment and personal responsibility.
There are no clear routes to success. But if anything, we are learning that instead of employees working for organizations, we need organizations that are working for their employees. We need leaders who are in service to their staff, who are great listeners, and who are innovative and radical. We need organizations with absolute clarity on their vision and purpose and who can communicate that with energy and passion to every employee. We must have managers who encourage new thinking, innovation, and measured risk-taking and staff who feel encouraged, empowered, and self-motivated. If this is to happen and happen it must be for organizational survival, then now is the time to consider introducing coaching into your organization.
Coaching is a highly relational activity, requiring focussed and appreciative listening, an open mind, and a belief in the potential and capability of others. There has never been a more important time for organizations to use coaching, especially transition coaching to help staff move through the Covid transition curve as the relational and communication skills used in coaching are capabilities that underpin strong, trusting, and appreciative workplace relationships.
Transition coaching helps individuals and teams understand and let go of the past and helps them create an exciting and motivating picture of the future for themselves in their working life, both as individuals and as part of a bigger team. Similarly, return to work coaching focuses on how individuals and teams can re-discover ease and harmony in work after many difficult months of anxiety and increased stress. Many people will find themselves with new roles and responsibilities, and career and role transition coaching can help facilitate these transitions faster and more successfully.
Managers and leaders will find their role as motivators and communicators more important than ever as the hybrid workplace becomes the norm, and coaching will be essential to achieve this. By adopting a coaching style of management, staff will feel listened to, appreciated, self-motivated and get the sense that the organization cares about them. They will almost certainly perform better and will have a sense of achievement that is so important when potentially isolated from work colleagues. That’s how you want your employees to feel if they spend most of their time working remotely.
Ultimately, coaching is about learning – as an individual, as a team, and strategically as an organization – and right now, post-Covid, we are all learning more than ever. The transition to a hybrid world of work will present immense challenges that must be met with rapid learning and agile action. Coaching can help organizations embrace the challenge of developing learning cultures, encourage innovation and talent, deepen relationship-building capacity and demonstrate care and appreciation at all levels in the organization.