Covid 19 special – Coaching for the new norm
Working from home used to be something many office workers would do occasionally if they needed to be home for a delivery, and for others it had become a weekly habit on a Friday. However, when all offices were suddenly closed, working from home was now the norm.
In this blog post we are looking at the positive impact a professional coach can have when supporting individuals and organizations to transition out of lockdown and work out what the new norm really is.
So looking back before the current lockdown, a Manager would look up the working from home policy on the company intranet if somebody in their team wanted to occasionally work from home. It would normally say it had to be agreed in advance, it was not a permanent change to the working pattern and was ultimately based on business needs.
Some organizations had also introduced agile working and removed fixed desks as a result of new corporate networking technology and empowered its workforce to look at the tasks in their diary and see where they would do their best work. This opened up the possibility to work from anywhere with a good wifi connection, so suddenly you had people working from home more often. You also had members of the team popping out to the local coffee shop or going to a quiet corner of the office for an hour or two if they had something to work on and didn’t want to be disturbed.
But this global pandemic has been a real catalyst for change, and we have seen some organizations announce their workforce can keep working from home, even when the lockdown is lifted. So with expectations set and new habits forming, how should this type of change be implemented and how can a professional coach help get it right?
“If you don’t take change by the hand, it will take you by the throat.”
Shrinking office space and reducing the need of real estate will be seen as a quick way of reducing overheads for some organizations, and after all it’s what everybody wants, so why would you keep paying for an office to sit empty? However, this may not actually be what everybody wants, so this type of positive cultural change needs to be carefully considered. It also needs to be implemented in consultation with the employee community, otherwise it could be seen as a negative ‘top down’ or forced change.
Many of us have seen this ‘top down’ approach used and it does deliver results, with most people eventually changing over time, but it normally takes longer and comes with greater resistance. Managers also report difficulty getting a change like this to stick once the initial announcement has been made, because the benefits to the individual or team were never understood or discussed.
The issue is, hitting a project deadline or delivering a saving on the spreadsheet will always be important, but measuring success with behavioral change and getting the user experience right, is key to making any change stick. So as a professional coach, you can act as an impartial specialist to guide any engagement activity and facilitate feedback sessions to ensure all concerns are openly discussed and captured.
We know ownership is normally created by involving the people impacted by a change, because they can help identify problems and craft solutions. This is a vital step to minimize future avoidance or resistance to change, because the manager and employee communities will have time to understand the changes and feel listened to.
It will also be an opportunity to help employees build the case for any change to working patterns before they are made, so your coaching skills are utilized to help eliminate resistance and enable a smooth transition over to any new way of working. Ask them to review and update any working from home policy or guidance, so it accurately reflects how they are now able to work or want to work. Include a conversation on childcare or caring responsibilities and how productivity will be measured. Consider who really needs to be in the office and how teams can stay connected or come together if office space is reduced
You can coach leaders to understand why having this more collaborative approach will deliver lasting change and then coach them to be fully involved and visible throughout the process. This will significantly reduce resistance to any changes and delivers much greater prospects for success, because their people will understand the need for change, work through any impact it could have and feel supported to find their own solutions.
Your role to coach for the new norm
A professional coach can support organizational changes like this, and it demonstrates a genuine desire to:
- Really understand what the options are
- Significantly improve employee engagement
- Empower the people to be part of the conversation
- Boost morale at a time of great uncertainty
So now is the time to reach out to your professional network and start the conversation. See how their organization plans to transition out of lockdown and what changes they are planning, because you can really add some value to those discussions.
Here are some ideas to help you identify and win new opportunities:
- Build your network of decision-makers so you can attract more opportunities
- Proactively promote your services on social media to build reputation and influence
- Get interview ready so you can talk confidently about your work and achievements
- Create a range of case studies to showcase your skills and experience
We have seen how technology has been used to enable teams to stay connected and successfully work from home, so business leaders across the globe will be thinking carefully about the possible changes they need to make to succeed in the future.
Somebody may be working on a project right now that would benefit from your coaching skills, but may not contact you because it’s unclear if you are actively seeking new opportunities. So keep your employment status up to date and make it clear what type of opportunity you are looking for or sector you have experience working in.
We have a new e-book on change and constantly add content to the site, so please check our on-line shop or read some of the other blog posts written by our team of international coaches.
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