The pandemic has changed the workplace. The office is no longer a physical location where everyone reaches at the same time to complete work. There is no meeting room where colleagues gather to thrash out problems. The cafeteria is no longer the place to linger on with a colleague as you trade heartaches and dreams. The workplace is now a virtual place visible only on the laptop or mobile. Emotions, creativity and influence are the new variables in every job. What is driving the change?
Virtual and IRL have exchanged places
The colleagues are virtual while the family members are (IRL) in real life. Bosses have accepted family members straying into meeting rooms. Pets and babies routinely interrupt board room discussions. Instead of getting annoyed everyone welcomes the comic relief.
The ability to build trust and understand issues of mental health arising out of loneliness, anxiety and stress is a skill gap that is impacting performance of leaders. These are new challenges that have grown exponentially in 2020.
A crowded workplace full of distractions: The workplace now has infrastructure issues like lack of connectivity, hardware, software and tech support. The team is scattered and no longer just a drive away. That changes how collaborative work is delivered. Deliveries sent by Amazon and Flipkart have to be collected. Swiggy is delivering food packages. Big Basket is delivering groceries. The medicine shop and kirana shop next door are delivering essentials even as the employee is fretting over dropping sales.
Working unsupervised: There is no manager to supervise if the employee’s work is on track. The employees have discovered that they can escape boring webinars by blaming poor connectivity as the reason to not log in. The employee realizes that they can watch a movie on their mobile if they simply log in to the office drivel on their laptop. The middle managers fret about being helpless to manage this autonomous and hyperconnected employee. Employees complain about being able to impact peers to collaborate.
- Whose time is it anyway: Employers claim that without having to commute to work, the employee has extra time that the employers are entitled to. The employees are taking fake commutes before they settle down to work or to remind themselves to switch off from work. Employers are claiming victory because productivity has not dipped. Employees attribute it to the extra hours the employers feel entitled to steal from them. Mental health challenges have suddenly gone mainstream.
Emotions in the workplace
The hybrid workplace is here to stay for a while and many of the shifts are permanent. The way people relate to colleagues will have to be recast in view of these new contexts. Spontaneous unstructured chats with colleagues is an essential element of building the office culture. New hires learn the unspoken rules of the employer by watching how colleagues interact with their bosses, peers and juniors. What kind of behaviors are acceptable? And which ones are frowned upon?
Being able to read emotions of others on the screen is considerably harder. For a new hire, it is hard to figure out the power structures and undercurrents since a number of the participants shut the camera citing low bandwidth. Tracking emotions across tiny tiles is impossible. Building trust in a virtual setting is much harder even for those with high degrees of empathy. For the rest, it is impossible. The relationships across colleagues will see a reset. Building trust will be the soft skills gap every organization will have to bridge.
Three new elements are getting added to every job
- Ability to influence in a virtual environment
- Being able to manage own emotions and the emotions of others
- Innovation often needs a multi-domain perspective that triggers creativity but needs collaboration to execute at scale.
To build new business models, businesses will have to rely on innovation. That cannot be left to a handful of people. In each role the degree of creative, emotional complexity and ability to influence without authority have become drivers of success. Jobs will have to be decoded to rank them on these additional parameters. Each job will vary on the level of complexity needed. Ranking each job is a start. Jobs will need to be decoded for the new context. ‘Job decoder’ could be the hot new opportunity.
Decode your own job
Grade your current job by using this scale. Plot the complexity from low to high along the six dimensions. If you are adventurous, create a scale to rank the job from 1 to 100 along each dimension where low complexity is rated 1 and most complexity is rated at 100.
Decode other jobs
Grade other jobs in your team on this scale to get a good view of which element of complexity is moving up or down. And then as you plot any individual on these dimensions, you can also identify the element of the job that needs to be strengthened.
Job decoders may be the new role in HR
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