Especially during or after a crisis, it is important to think about and talk about "meaning". As we have seen, Corona acts like a catalyst that increases the speed of reactions. The forced digitization was like a bang in the already rapid digital development. In the blink of an eye, employees were equipped with laptops and access data for meeting and collaboration software to be able to work from their home office. But when something as profound as the COVID-19 pandemic happens, it is advisable to pause for a moment and analyze what really happened and what (perhaps) you could learn from it.
Proclaiming a crisis as opportunity may often be correct in terms of content but is extremely badly received by people with acute existential anxieties that stem from this crisis. Certainly, we are still in the crisis and it will probably keep us busy for a long time to come. But the mood is changing and the calls for quick solutions increasing, which is why it is worthwhile to investigate the question how Corona has changed our working world and thus, our lives in the long run.
Communication—whether internal or external—has always been the supreme discipline, but it is underrepresented in many company managements. Communication is not an executive body but must be personally represented in every management—especially in times of social media.
Without doubt, some large corporations have burned their fingers and maybe also their good reputation during this crisis, by giving the impression of being greedy, without moral and not following their mission statements. However, it is crucial to live everything 100% of what you have PR professionals write in mission statements, ethical guidelines, or sustainability reports. That you believe in it yourself. because it corresponds to your own values.
That may sound trivial, but in fact it is a revolutionary change from the previous model. Everything I pretend to be and not really live can and will be used publicly against me (the company). This requires a new image of leadership. Leadership must change away from the commanding to the collaborating. A manager is a service provider for his employees. If you as a manager are tied to the old ways of thinking, things will get tight in new structures. The structures call for less leadership, but for real substantive authorities. Leaders who manage to unite people behind them to achieve a goal that really makes sense and embodies values.
In the future, the home office will probably have a much higher priority than before. However, this results in a new discipline for managers: leadership at a distance. This means that one has to speak in detail about terms such as trust, self-discipline, meaningfulness, and empathy in the company. If there is no mutual trust, home office will not work. Because that's where the results count and less how long you sat at your desk to achieve them.
Even though we got finally rid of the myth that people work less in the home office (i.e. when the supervisor is not in control), as a representative study by Prof. Michael Beckmann from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Basel proves employees with trust-based working hours work an average of 80 minutes longer per week than employees with fixed working hours. Nevertheless, the presence of employees is still extremely important to many managers today, giving them a kind of "security". The management culture must and will change here—namely towards less control, but more real trust.
Those who focus now, take responsibility and act constructively, who question their business model, their communication, and their management style self-critically, have the chance of a bright future. Because Corona can force companies to make leaps in innovation for which they previously were “too full” or too fearful. Our focus determines our energy level, our motivation. So, let's focus on the possibilities. After all, it's not just about our own future, but also about the future of all employees in the company and the future of our (working) world. All of this should be worthwhile for us to look boldly into the future and really tackle changes.
By Daniela La Marca