The following is taken from a livecast video in May 2020 called DigiTalks, between Digital University’s Izabela Bartnicka and Monica Parker. They discussed the future of work in a post-COVID19 era, as well as Monica’s HRevolution virtual conference session, ‘The New Abnormal – Leading in a Strange Global Landscape. This is the first instalment in a two-part series.

DigiTalks: Hello, Monica! How are you?

Monica Parker: I’m very well. Thanks for having me today!

DT: Okay, so you’re working globally with many different companies around the world and you also will be a speaker on our HRevolution conference this week – tell us more about the topic.

MP: Sure! I’ll be speaking about what I’m calling The New Abnormal. I’ve been talking a lot lately about what I think is a real danger in calling the future ‘the new normal’ because what we’re experiencing right now is not normal. It’s a pandemic and there are a lot of people who are in crisis. And so I think it’s important that we recognize that while this is new, it is not normal. The presentation is really looking at leadership and the skills required to lead in this very strange landscape that we’re living with.

DT: Sounds very interesting. I can’t wait! So, talking with your clients, with these companies that I know are facing very difficult, turbulent times right now, do they have different questions for you or different ideas or goals regarding the pandemic situation?

MP: Absolutely. First a bit about HATCH. HATCH is a human-analytics and change consultancy and we specialize in the future of work. And the current challenges are very much within our sweet spot of expertise, because the future of work is changing very rapidly right now. Whether we want it to or not.

Three keys to successful remote working


MP: I would say we’re working with our clients right now around three main areas that are specific to this ‘New Abnormal’. The first is around remote working. Obviously, a lot of organisations were forced into remote working. Everybody held their collective breath and said, ‘Is the technology going to hold and is the business going to fall apart?’ What they found is that a lot of the assumptions about working away from the office were actually misconceptions. People can work quite functionally from home. But what they’re now asking, as they’re through this triage spot, is what training can we do around remote working? How can we get people working in a really effective way remotely, as opposed to just ‘things not falling down’?

One of the main ways we’re doing that is what’s called ‘operating rhythms.’ It’s really looking at how team members operate with each other. What we find is that most operating rhythms in a traditional office setting are set by the boss. The boss decides when you have a team meeting. The boss decides when you have to submit your numbers. Now that so much autonomy has been taken away, HATCH are recommending that leaders try to hand some of those operating rhythms back to the people that they’re working with. Try to understand things like chronotype – when do people work best during the day – and give back some choice where so much has been taken away.

Avoiding Zoom overload


It’s also important to understand communication channels. There has been a mass transition to video conferencing, but the problem is people are trying to take every face-to-face meeting they previously had and make it a video conference. There’s a lot of research that says that’s not the most effective way to communicate.  And, so it’s understanding all these ways we can communicate and looking at those in the context of remote working, rather than trying to make it just like it was at the office.

Returning to the office – without abandoning remote working


And then, of course, there are organisations that are starting to dip their toe in the water of returning to the office. There is a genuine risk people take on when they go back into the office, and so we want to make sure people feel safe when they return. We also want it to be an effective workplace when they get there. What was effective before will not necessarily be effective now. Lastly, we want to make it familiar, and what makes an office familiar is the people.

The challenge is really helping an organization understand what will make it ‘worth it’ for people to want to come back into the office and what activities they are going to do when they get there. We’re helping our clients prepare for this in various ways and HATCH have also written a whitepaper about this in more detail. It’s important that their return to the office is successful, while also recognising that remote working is not going to disappear.

Follow the series and read part two: “Change Management for Leaders – Discussions about The New Abnormal

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