What Lies Ahead: Three Fundamental Changes to How We'll Work Post-Pandemic

The future of work requires that we change our mindset, the way we view work, our relationships with our employees and employers, and our careers.

Dan Lett
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As the number of new infections from the coronavirus slows, and economies around the world ease restrictions and begin to plan for recovery, uncertainty remains and there is increasing talk about what the world will look like post-pandemic. 

What is certain, however, in all the uncertainty, is that workforce playbooks will require a comprehensive overhaul post-pandemic. The world of work before the crisis will never look the same again after. 

According to Ricardo Vargas, executive director of the Brightline Initiative and an experienced project management specialist, individuals and organizations alike are suffering from the pandemic, not only because of the continuing risk posed by the virus, but also because of the uncertainty around how we will operate in the future.

“The worst part [of the pandemic] for companies and individuals is uncertainty,” Vargas said in a wide-ranging interview with Michelle Anthony, LHH executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “What is causing all the disruptions is that we don’t know if next week will be much better, or it will be much worse.”

If the world has changed forever, what can we do as organizations and individuals to prepare for an entirely new sense of normal? Vargas said that our mindset going into this is critical and the apprehensive easing of lockdowns to staggered re-openings will require all of us to change the way we view work, our relationships with our employees and employers, and our careers.

There are three main areas that Vargas believes will change fundamentally when we start to ease the restrictions that have been prompted by the pandemic:

On the leadership front

Leaders must have empathy for people coming back to work, Vargas noted. This kind of leadership was perhaps best embodied by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has used social media to keep in touch with her citizens during the pandemic. Her willingness to share details about her family, and her casual attire, have won praise at home and around the world. She is a successful leader because she truly empathizes with the people she is leading.

On the operational front

As economies start to reopen, there will be a temptation to rush back to full operation. Organizations of all kinds are well advised to take it slow and resist the temptation to stampede. In particular, don’t force everyone to come back to the office at the same time, right away. You need to establish procedures to ensure that your offices do not aid in the transmission of the disease. If you try to bring everyone back at once, you will create more problems and a greater likelihood of infection. You need to let people ease back into the idea of working in a group setting and prepare yourself for the fact that some will want to continue working from home. Keep an open mind and don’t dismiss any scenario out of hand.

On the strategic front

Rather than dwelling on impacts of self-isolation and forced virtual work, move quickly to identify the low-hanging fruit: new markets and business opportunities that come from a dramatically changed world. You’ll need to be agile and creative, and don’t be shackled by a need to do exactly what you did before the pandemic and in the way you were doing it. Be bold but be very careful with layoffs and downsizing. Slashing human resources will not leave you in any position to seize the new opportunities that will arise. Focus on creating a productive working environment and encourage your people to find new processes, products and solutions.

Watch the recorded interview.

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