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CEO and executive are moving into an uncertain future. We can find ourselves a little lost in the new world we’re living in, merely reacting to or overwhelmed by the externalities of the Covid pandemic. We see firsthand how employees and leaders alike are challenged to maintain their centeredness while the floor is falling around them.
When we talk about the radical changes to our routines, the bulk of what we focus on is safety first and technical solutions for virtual work. While these are important, it is also vital that we design into our routines ways that will allow us to consider our humanity and sense of wellbeing.
That thought has led me to wonder — what could it look like for us to use this moment to design a work experience that enhances our human capacities, needs, aspirations, and values – even in this challenging time? Below are three elements I believe will be essential for organizational leaders to consider toward this end:
1. Human Moments
This moment of virtual work in isolation will require we design for deeper human connections, not just digital expertise. Digital interaction is now the new normal, but I believe what will set apart leaders at this moment are not how good we are at the technical side of virtual work, but how able we are to foster empathy, care, connection and a feeling of belonging — things that technology cannot do for us.
Before starting your calls and meetings for the day, ask yourself: “What opportunities do I have to be a little more human and a little more caring today?” When you are in a meeting, starting a meeting, or talking to a colleague, ask yourself, “what small acts of kindness or connections can I make right now?” Do you know what this moment means for them? In my experience, it can be a simple as closing another browser, stop the sharing of your screen, and being as present as you can be with the other person.
2. Creating Belonging
Our new work reality is directly in conflict with our innate needs as social creatures who rely on social connecting and the signals we get from nonverbal cues to understand our environment. Belonging and social connection is vital. This is why I believe we will need to design for our life in this new reality for more, not less, human connection.
In the middle of all the stressful changes in our lives, it might feel impossible to find space to connect with the people around us. Yet even small gestures of kindness and connection, can have a positive effect on others. Human connection is the foundation to virtual teams functioning and of building the kind of trust that technology cannot create for us.
Explore when we can create new online spaces and find time calendar gaps for connecting. For example, give yourself an extra 10 minutes to check in with your teams. Design meetings that address team uncertainty, and encourage employees to attend on video so you can better read nonverbal cues and find ways to signal calm through your body language. I believe the more we design work around humanness of this moment, the more permission we give others to follow suit.
3. The Need to Decompress
Given the endless onslaught of news and information about Covid-19, creating space to decompress is vital – now more than ever. Our current environments are impacting our mental health and wellbeing, with constant news alerts on social media and TV. Now is a great time to build good habits and practice breathing and meditation — which could become central to how we maintain our wellbeing.
Just as we schedule our Zoom meetings, we need to schedule time to restore and unplug. It’s merely a matter of prioritizing it. The same goes for your teams. Encourage people to take a few moments to breathe and meditate. Tapping into the rhythms of our breath and calming our mind can allow us to find the center in the storm.
While so many things are out of our control – we also have some agency in design the reality we want through things that are in our control. Too often, technology and urgent situations determine how our lives are run and our teams. Now is a moment when leaders and their teams can rethink and experiment with ways to build a better future of work might — and in doing so, help our organizations through this time of stress and uncertainty.