We live in exceptional times, not the least in working life. Gradually, the shock of the first weeks of organising our daily activities gives in to questions about what happens once the crisis is over. How do we, as a business, a team, etc., get back to normal, and what will that ‘normal’ be? How can we reach our customers quickly again and get our daily tasks running, our ‘engine’ started and working again? The question lurking at the back of our mind is: What if it takes much longer than expected to get back to normal? What would that mean?
An interesting question is whether something we are now learning to do during the crisis will actually help us change something for the better at work, or help us get ‘up and running’ faster?
There are some very encouraging signs that, at least at team-level and as individuals, we are learning a lot right now. Above all, all of us fortunate enough still to be employed are learning to communicate in a new way. A telling example of this is what has happened in millions of schools all over the world. Almost overnight, teachers, students (and their parents) have learned to ‘master’ Zoom and other tools and to collaborate to keep school-work going. And in many cases, the same learning experience has happened equally fast for people at work elsewhere. In sum, on the positive note, we have learnt that it is possible to work from home and how to do it in practise.
However, during the past three weeks, very many people and managers, have already come to understand very concretely what it means to be in too many meetings from home, for a full eight-nine hours every day. They have learnt that such meetings tend to be painfully similar from one meeting to another, even though the faces on the screen are changing. They have learnt that most, if not all, such meetings are very low on creativity, collaboration and real learning. If this sounds familiar, it is because these are the same impressions most of us has when we started work in an office. (At least, in the office, we have the luxury of sometimes changing meeting rooms.)
When we go back to work and meet in the office again, we will know that the answer for re-organising work is not everybody working and meeting from home in the way we do now during this crisis. Perhaps this will be a lesson from the crisis: that we need to boost our efforts to experiment and change work towards something truly new and much better?