Change can be simply defined as a transition or an alteration. As our planet weathers the COVID-19 pandemic- jobs, organizations and workforce have been pushed into uncharted territories.
A sudden switch to remote modes of working, changes in work environment and lifestyle are proving to be testing times for organizations.
Observing change, or witnessing things unfolding passively is different from actively deciding to participate in the change, or proactively driving the change. Times like these require increased flexibility and agility.
Adapting to change an organizational or an individual level is effected by bringing about a transformation from ‘doing agile’ to ‘being agile’ (Patel, 2019). This involves:
1. Primary appraisal- gaining a complete understanding of the situation.
2. Secondary appraisal– evaluating and analyzing the situation, available support and resources. It involves matching one’s skill-set and dispositions to the demands of the situation.
3. Responsiveness– an optimal and proactive response to change rather than witnessing it passively.
Whereas some organizations are succumbing to these changing times, others are fast adapting. CHRIST Consulting, along with eminent experts from varied disciplines conducted a qualitative and quantitative study on mapping effective WFH practices. The study explored stressors, enablers, wellness and other psychological constructs across genders, hierarchical positions and functional roles across multiple sectors like IT/Telecommunications, Financial Services, Imports/Exports, Academia, Hospitality and Healthcare. Questions in the interviews probed factors that deter or facilitate work experience. The research gave insights into various strategies and recommendations to enhance work functioning, satisfaction and productivity.
Working virtually has definitely influenced one’s attention span and led to ergonomically induced issues like back pain and neck pain. ‘Zoom burnout’, ‘webinar fatigue’ and various such syndromes-taking a toll on one’s mental well-being. A participant of the study highlighted his experiences around changing communication patterns, workplace relationships and dynamics. “You need to prove yourself. When you’re in office, they see you work. When you’re away from office, you know, we don’t know what they think of. On that aspect you need to keep informing them”. Workplace norms regarding virtual meetings, communication, reporting and regulation must be modified to reduce ‘surveillance stress’. Constant monitoring can be sapping for both managers and employees.
It is not just the work dynamics but the family dynamics too that has been altered. With lack of designated workspace, distractions from family members, many participants experienced a work-life spillover with no boundaries of time and space- “I always feel there should be a strong distinction between your home and your workplace.”
The study explored not just the drawbacks of working remotely but also the positives. These included availability of increased time for family and personal growth- “There is time that you can use it the way you want,” effective and streamlined communication patterns –
“things have become smoother because we can give information first hand rather than giving it via and via saving unnecessary expenses etc“
This study threw ample light on proactive organizational strategies that were being adopted across the globe. They ranged from providing financial assistance – “they have given insurance also for COVID, my family covered for one year,” maintaining employees’ physical and mental well-being to providing material support- “many people who don’t have internet facilities at their house or who don’t have a laptop or a desktop to work from, our college has provided them.” Giving equal importance to work-life balance, organizations devised mutually convenient work schedules-“Especially when you’re working from home, the common work times, common meeting times, very specific agenda, and the discipline to start and finish meetings on time.”
Necessity invariably leads to progress. As Jonathan Lockwood Huie notes, “The world is not the same today as it was yesterday, and it will be different still tomorrow. We can be victims of that change, or we can proactively drive change.” The path to progress involves overcoming the limitations of WFH while enhancing its enablers. With emerging evidence-based findings, breakthrough models for change management and tailor-made interventions-organizational adaptability is the decider for the path to success.