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Coronavirus – The New Normal & How To Work With It

Paul Adam Mudd, Director of the Mudd Partnership

“So – What Next?” Shaken not Stirred

Is it too early to think post-virus?

Pandemics are certainly not the exception in human history, they are in fact the rule.

Afterall modern humans have existed for about 200,000 years, whilst the oldest bacteria have been around for billions of years and viruses for at least 300 million years.

Things are never the same after a pandemic as they were before, and Covid-19 has certainly shaken the world.

Where will we be though when all that shaking stops?

Recent events only confirm our world is nothing but change and a network of events which never form an orderly queue.

But when the fog of crisis cedes and we’re back in stride – back commuting – congregating with colleagues – participating in meetings – what are we going to do?

Apart from readjusting, reprioritising, starting to crank through the gears again, and raising our individual and collective games.

I believe though there is something much bigger at stake.

Wellbeing or Well becoming

Things will be different, a new normal will evolve and settle, and if we learn lessons from this crisis-event hugely beneficial political, intellectual and social changes could and should emerge – And we will have many opportunities!

There is one that I’m particularly keen to explore, and that is an opportunity to start to pay real attention not just to our own wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of others – Our colleagues, our neighbours, our family, our friends.

La realisation ultime in pro-social behaviour, perhaps?

I think not!

If we stopped there, we would be missing a much greater prize, because it is not so much wellbeing that we should be focusing on and striving for, but well becoming.

Time for a Fresh Start

We have received a wake-up call, not a nudge.

We have been hit by a tidal wave not rinsed by a gentle Spring swell.

As the new normal begins to take shape and define itself there may be a lag in behavioural change and ways of being, but this is a tide that demands to be taken on the flood.

Before the crisis it was said that 80% of the workforce go to work with their arms and legs, 15% go to work with their arms, legs and head, and 5% come to work every day with the arms, legs, head and heart.

Put another way imagine you get a large consignment of printer paper delivered and the boxes are left partially obstructing ingress to the workplace – 80% will find a way around the pile of boxes to gain access, 15% will move the boxes out of the way, and 5% will not only move the boxes, but find a place to store them and tell whoever needs to know where they’ve put them.

Before this pandemic what did you do to you engage that 80%?

To reach out, understand what makes them tick and identify what you could do as a manager and a leader to make them tock, because research suggests that an engaged & committed employee is likely to be on average 20% more effective and productive than their unengaged/uncommitted colleague. They’re also more likely to be a passionate advocate for your business too.

Whilst in a team setting, if everyone is fully engaged and committed the team can outperform expectations by as much as 50%.

A Suggestion

You need to be thinking about what can be done in the new normal to engage and support your staff’s mental well-being, develop their emotional intelligence and capacity for self-leadership, nurture their agility and adaptability, curiosity and decision-making skills, and build their resilience.

Tellingly perhaps, these skills and behaviours, along with collaboration, initiative, effective communication and accessing and analysing information have been identified in recent work by Harvard, the OCED and Fullan & Leithwood, as key skills for the 21st Century workplace.

So, it’s not rocket science and we don’t have to look over our shoulder to know that the case for doing this has never been more pressing!

Specific and Wider Challenges

Even before the Coronavirus, the shifting demands in leadership across the FE sector, funding pressures and the challenges facing governing bodies, the number of people in the UK workforce working excessive hours had risen by over 15% in the past five years.

Whilst in April 2019 an EU study confirmed that in the UK we work the longest hours in Europe – On average 42.5 hours per week and although this has shortened by around 18 minutes over the past decade, it would still take another 63 years for UK workers to enjoy the same amount of free time as their European counterparts!

The shared reality is that workforces in all sectors have been under siege for quite a while, and the vagaries of modern living have only piled the pressure on, whilst offering no respite

The Age of Great Acceleration

As well as everything else that has been happening recently, we have for some time been living in the ‘Age of Great Acceleration’, or the Anthropocene as it’s also known.

An age that started with the steam-powered pump and led to the iPad, but after 300 years it is coming to an end.

In the age of the machine, evolution has moved fast. The seabird took more than 50 million years to evolve from its lizard ancestor. Today’s airliners emerged from string-bag biplanes in a mere 100 years.

The next age, the Novacene, is now imminent and poised to turbo-charge The Anthropocene and all that’s gone before.

In the next few years if all that someone describes to you does not sound like science fiction, they will most likely not be giving you the whole story, but for some time now we have all seen how things have got smarter, as the evolution and reach of technology has got quicker and quicker.

For instance, the telephone took 50 years to reach 50 million users – The iPad took 4 years to achieve the same – Whilst Pokémon Go took just 19 days!!

And now starkly reminded of our mortality, the true nature of some people exposed by how they act in a time of crisis, the irrelevance of much we thought so relevant before, and with a changed outlook of how we perceive ourselves as an individual part of a larger whole, we have the opportunity to redefine and reengage with ourselves and our workforces.

Not just in new ways of working, but also in new ways of being well and well becoming.

What Next?

In a short series of linked pieces for FE News I will be looking at both the future workplace and the current reality of working from home – The case for corporate mental health and well becoming strategies & what steps to take to make them a reality, as well as how to thrive and survive working from the home space.

And I’ll also be looking at what it will look and feel like to be a leader in the new normal.

Paul Adam Mudd is a Trusted Adviser, Leadership Provocateur, Savvy Thinker, International Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Mindfulness Author, Global Well Being & Well Doing Influencer, & Director of the Mudd Partnership

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