And our working lives have been turned upside down as well. We have lost our usual structure and daily routines, lost the enforced divide between work and home (the commute), lost the camaraderie and banter of the office, lost the spontaneity of random catch-ups and the creativity sparked by a conversation in the corridor. It has all felt pretty dark and gloomy.
And yet I believe there has been an important silver lining on COVID’s dark cloud.
The Silver Lining
We are being far more humane towards one another, and especially in a work context.
For many companies, the penny has finally dropped. People truly are your number 1 asset.
This is no longer some vacuous statement on a company’s website or part of the annual speech you trawl out to investors.
It has become a blindingly obvious fact.
The resilience of your organisation depends on the resilience of your people. How they cope with the challenges and rapid rate of change will determine how your business copes.
Human and emotional capital are as fundamental as financial capital.
Thus, supporting your people and enabling them to do their jobs to the best of their ability in the circumstances has become the primary focus.
And the realisation has also dawned that much of this is down to mental and emotional health. If your people feel supported, cared for, trusted and empowered, their mental wellbeing and consequent engagement, motivation and performance will be higher.
But the even better news is that this no longer feels like the primary motivation.
The primary motivation now feels like it comes from a place of genuinely caring about our people as fellow human beings.
The Re-Birth Of HR
I personally love the fact that this signals the re-birth of HR.
Not only have they become centre-stage but they are finally able to put the ‘human’ back into Human Resources.
I could never understand why HR rarely sat on the board. How could the people agenda not be deemed important enough for a seat at the top table?
And I know from running many leadership team dynamics sessions over the years, how isolated the HR director can feel when all the focus is on finance and strategy and not the people who will deliver it.
But I have witnessed a massive step-change in the last 9 months in the way that many leaders view their people, talk about their people and indeed treat their people.
Why Has It Happened?
Despite claims to the contrary, COVID has been a great leveller. And when we are put in someone else’s shoes, as opposed to imagining what it would be like, it is far easier to feel compassion and empathy.
It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, or what your title is:
- You are still at risk of getting COVID
- You are still afraid your elderly parents or grandparents will contract it
- You will probably know someone who has died from it
- Vulnerable members of your family have still had to shield from it restricting contact
- You are still at risk of losing your job or your business
- You have still been locked down and prevented from going about your daily life
- You have still had to work from your spare bedroom, lounge, kitchen or basement
- You have still lost access to your favourite leisure-time activities
- You have still had to juggle home-schooling with working if you’ve got kids
- You have still had to cancel your holidays…..
Are you less at risk of contracting C-19 if you are in a higher socio-economic group?
Might it have been easier if you were wealthy with a big house and garden?
But we have still all shared many fundamental aspects of the pandemic regardless of our wealth and status.
And that has been good for humanity.
2020 has been tough for everyone. We have all experienced a sense of loss, we have all been on the same emotional rollercoaster, we are all feeling tired or even exhausted and we are probably all keen to see the back of this year.
And yet, if the legacy of COVID is more humane organisations where people are truly seen, heard and valued, then that will be one sparkly silver lining on an otherwise horribly dark cloud.