We are all looking forward to some shape of normality and putting the coronavirus behind us, in spite of the fact that we know we will not go back to the way we were. The new normality will be different in so many ways and one of the aspects to consider is the work environment.
Admittedly, the experience of the past year of remote working has taught us some lessons. Hopefully, we have learnt the pitfalls of remote working and we have learnt in what ways it can be beneficial. We can, therefore, expect some changes in this area from what we were accustomed to previous to the pandemic. However, the issue I pose is another one.
The little bit of silver lining in the dark grey clouds of the pandemic is represented by the fact that I believe we have the opportunity to reshape our workplaces. We should indeed seize on this opportunity and develop a workplace that is more conducive to employee engagement. I am not referring to the physical environment at the workplace but, rather, at the psychological environment.
My first wish is to embed learning into the culture of any organisation, so that it becomes a way of doing things. Learning is to be seen as a way of transforming organisations. This thinking very often comes up against two types of barriers.
One barrier comes from the side of those employers who do not believe that it is their responsibility to develop their staff, to promote change, to be innovative. This then leads to work becoming no more than a means to a living, which was the way work was looked at some 60 years ago when work opportunities were scarce.
My wish is that we rediscover our work values to start afresh in a more ethical and inclusive work environment where learning is the main driver
The other barrier comes from the side of those employees who are disengaged from their job and their colleagues, and believe that they have nothing else to learn in life. When they speak of career development, they are not really referring to learning new skills or taking on new responsibilities but are referring to increasing their salaries.
My second wish is to embed inclusivity into the workplace culture. Within society at large, we have made big advances in the area of inclusivity but, in terms of attitudes and perceptions, we have not made strides forward. There were times when the term ‘inclusivity’ evoked images of persons with disability at work. Today, the term has much broader connotations.
We need to address head on the gender pay gap issue. Pay should be based on the role one is fulfilling, merit and results. Workplaces should be free of harassment, bullying and discrimination. Prejudice is still all too prevalent in many workplaces, with employees being discriminated against, even by supposed colleagues, on the basis of gender, race, age, sexual orientation and education attainment.
It seems that at the workplace, people look for what distinguishes them from others rather than embrace diversity.
My third wish is that workplaces become places of integrity. Integrity should be one of the fundamental values at any workplace. It is the basis on which work colleagues, management and employees build their relationships and reciprocal trust. Employers and employees feel accountable to each other and fulfil all their responsibilities, even when no one is watching. It involves honesty and ethical principles. It involves following the rules, treating others with respect and doing the right thing.
I have often stated that once the pandemic is brought under control, it will be like starting afresh. What will help us in the new scenario is our values. My wish is that we rediscover our work values to start afresh in a more ethical and inclusive work environment where learning is the main driver.
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