COVID has forced the reimagination of work.
I know it sounds cliche. Have we really sat down to think about COVID beyond Zoom calls and hybrid work environments?
Many external forces disrupt work and industries, whether industries are clocking it or not:
- Bitcoin and banking
- Competitive rate sites and the travel industry
- Uber drivers and taxis
- Microlending and loan sharks
- Online gambling and casinos
- Amazon and department stores
- Etsy stores and your grandma’s church bizarre
- eBay and auction houses
Whether it was the rise of women working because the men went off to WWII and we needed people to enter the workforce in droves, or entrepreneurs finding a better way to address the pain points of consumers, or employees themselves opting out of work in “The Great Resignation“, we’ve always had disruptive external forces that have created changes that have forever shifted the face of work.
Do we see COVID as one of the biggest workforce revolutionary engines we’ll see in our generation? Or are we still only talking about Zoom fatigue?
The Long Haul From the Long Tail
In statistics, as in business, a ‘long tail’ of some distributions of numbers is the portion of the distribution having many occurrences far from the “head” or central part of the distribution. The distribution could involve popularities, random numbers of occurrences of events with various probabilities, etc. In our case, COVID is the impetus of a long-tail workforce reinvention that we have some glimmer of what that will look like, and the story is still unfolding.
The good news is, now you have a better sense of what you’re dealing with, you’re better able to impact the long-term.
The bad news is, not everyone is actually studying what is truly happening. We have to dig deeper into understanding what is going on within our team, our organization, our business, our industry, our country and the world to know what needs to happen now. And we must face the fact that things will never be the same in how we treated work and the workforce before COVID.
Want to hear some good news? It’s the perfect excuse to reinvent.
Only 30% of North Americans were actually satisfied at work. If you saw this and didn’t know what to change, your voice wasn’t heard to reinvent, you had too many distractions or competing priorities, you now have the perfect excuse to reimagine. Just like when that tornado rips off the front of your house, and now you have the perfect reason to rebuild your home with the curb appeal, that you wouldn’t have justified the expense otherwise.
This is not your only priority, or perhaps the biggest disruption depending on your industry. Yet, caught up in the moment of the long tail of this pandemic, it feels that way. The ripple effects of the pandemic in how it impacts work continue to throw shockwaves.
Three Long Tail Responses to COVID
Organizations are in different places in managing the long tail of this pandemic:
- Denial – ignoring it and hoping things will get back to normal
- Study – curiously studying and getting an education about options
- Transform – rebuilding as if their business was starting fresh and iterating fast
Here’s the key I hope you remember: your people need to be part of the solution no matter where you’re at. If you’re getting push back that things won’t be “normal”, ask about it. If you’re studying it, include insights of your people about what they’re seeing, reading, and creatively solution-finding. If you’re transforming, go to the closest place the value is created and study the direct impact on staff and clients to gauge success. Your culture and systems may drive one of these three responses; however, you can value people in every one of these approaches.
This is a defining time of how much you show you value your people. This is also a time where you can succeed in it being a time of doing with versus doing to people.
When you show people you value by studying, responding, and evolving as a result of this massive time of workforce change, one of the unintended consequences that are a huge win is the closer connection, fluid collaboration, and demonstrated respect for people. Recognition isn’t a corporate event you can’t wait to get “back to” post COVD. It’s happening (or not happening) right under your nose in how you’re handing this transformation.
Looking for more ways to show your appreciation through COVID? Check out these helpful resources: