The ‘Routine-ification’ of the New Working World
According to psychologist Dr. John M. Gohol,
“Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Just as it takes us 20 years or more to develop our adult personalities, we’re also developing behaviors and habits that will stay with us for a lifetime.”
But just as COVID-19 has flipped nearly everything we once knew on its head — from reporting to the office to attending sports games and concerts to even hugging our own friends — so too has it flipped the concept of human adaptability.
According to the Washington Post, adaptability has become the single most crucial skill in the COVID-19 era. In a matter of months, an entirely new set of social norms has been created: wear your mask, wash your hands for 20 seconds, maintain a 6-foot distance, don’t touch your face. Our daily work routines, which most of us have had down to a science (or down to the incredibly specific latte order) for years have all but disappeared, replaced by entirely new, and for many, quite unorthodox ones. COVID-19 has certainly prompted changes in habits — and many changes have actually been positive, from slowing down and putting less pressure on ourselves to exercising, spending more time outdoors and prioritizing communication with family and friends.
These new social norms will certainly perpetuate new ‘company norms’ as well. As economies in certain areas of the country begin to open up, business leaders are adapting the office to the “new normal” as well — prompting changes that just a few months ago would have seemed alien such as temperature scanning, contact tracing, increased sanitization, distanced office furniture and more. Just as COVID-19 has enabled positive changes in people, many experts, such as Adam Grant, professor at the Wharton School of Business, believe it will have long-lasting positive changes to office life as well:
“Learning from an experience like this comes from reflection. As people come out of this crisis and start coming back to work, the first thing that I would do is have a discussion about what everyone learned from the experiments they ran. Some of those experiments were by force, others were by choice, but we’ve all had to test out different routines and the way we work.”
According to Fast Company, five positive changes we can expect from the new post-pandemic working world include:
- A fully digital transformation
- Focus on outputs versus face time
- Greater respect for work-life balance
- Stronger team communications
- Increased trust, transparency, and empathy
But these changes won’t be adopted on their own. In order to drive these future-ready workplace changes as employees begin to report back to the office, business leaders must be grounded in data-driven decision making and transparent communication at every step of the way. Installing thermal thermometers or a new check-in process for guests at the office? Let your team know, and equip them with the data-backed insights that this new technology brings. Wondering how to track productivity effectively while part of the workforce continues to work from home and others return to the office? Use a Productivity Indicators App to understand how your employees work best through productivity metrics — ones that have been transparently defined and adjusted based on the reality of the new working world.
To drive not only adoption, but compliance with new health, safety and virtual working protocols, take the time to recognize that your team will be dealing with a disruption to their routines — with change, a word that due to human nature, is often synonymous with anxiety. Normalizing the changes that will come as part of the new working world with omnichannel, continuous and transparent communication will make employees feel more comfortable, productive and safe. While it may feel funny to wear a mask to the office or sit 6-feet apart from coworkers for the first few days back, think about all of the workplace changes that have previously taken hold — just 30 years ago, casual dress was rare across workplaces.
According to management coach Jarret Jackson, “Adaptability is both an attitude and a capability: It’s thinking differently about problems so that there are always opportunities over obstacles. It’s akin to having what “Mindset” author and Stanford professor Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” Adaptability, by definition, doesn’t suggest there is passion or focus on one thing; rather, it’s an ability to bring that same level of energy and attention to any situation. In that way, it is an essential capability of any leader.”
In our post-pandemic world, adaptive individuals — those that are willing to alter their routines, to change, to grow, will be the future of work. And the business leaders who encourage change through data, insights and continuous communication will be the drivers of this change towards the normalization and ‘routinification’ of the new working world. After all, “even before the coronavirus pandemic, businesses felt the pressures of a constantly changing world requiring adaptability. COVID-19 just added another layer.”