The title of this blog post comes from author and renowned mental-health speaker Andrew Salkeld. We had a chat about mental health and the current Coronavirus pandemic a few weeks ago (you can read that insight here). The conversation turned towards the future of the business community, and what – if any – lasting impact the current crisis will have on our working and non-working lives.
Now that we are several weeks into this pandemic, the conversation and general discourse has begun to turn to the future, and employees and employers alike are starting to wonder what the business landscape will look like post-pandemic. We spoke to Andy, as well as experienced mental wellbeing coach Maria Mander, about how they think the future will shape up, and what effect this will have upon employees.
The future of remote working
One of the first topics to be discussed is remote working. “Many large businesses never really considered adopting truly flexible working arrangements as they never needed to do so; the sceptical might say it is due to lack of trust masked under the guise of building community and the necessity for face to face communication,” believes Andy, adding “Start-ups and small businesses have been doing this for years now! Living through this global pandemic will hopefully prove trust does exist en masse, and that going forward a much more flexible and much more balanced life for all can be built within all businesses.”
Maria believes the necessity of working from home during the pandemic will trigger a lot of changes. “Employees will want a better work/life balance going forward, and flexible working will be a part of that,” she says, “the majority of people have adapted very quickly, and it will be really interesting to see where this goes.”
In an ideal world, Andy believes that we should use this an opportunity to build better working cultures and environments. “We don’t have to go back to what the old normal was, we really don’t! We can choose what we liked from before and carry it forward, choose what we’ve found now, during this pandemic that is better for each of us and carry that forward; building a future we want rather than one we feel we need to return back to. The future is ours to shape.”
Mental health and work
Mental health awareness has been improving over the past few years, but this pandemic and its effects on our daily lives has pushed the conversation to the fore. Hopefully, this will be the start of big change when it comes to employers taking their employee’s mental health seriously. “A mental health crisis has been looming for a while,” Andy states, “People have been pushing themselves further, harder, faster than ever before at work, and it’s been taking a toll on everyone’s lives. This pandemic has been both a trigger to set it off but could also be a wake-up call to help diffuse it.”
Maria also has concerns about the mental wellbeing of some people once this crisis has passed. “A lot of changes have been made, and many more will be made, and people need time to adjust to these changes,” she warns, adding “there may be a rise in social anxiety after the pandemic, as people have become unused to socialising and leaving the house often.” This is a concern that all employers and HR departments should be aware of – not everybody is going to be filled with joy once lockdown has been lifted, and employers should be ready to support their returning employees.
Andy hopes that this will be a wake-up call to many companies about how they treat their people. “In three, six, nine months down the line, however long it is, some companies are going to be rebuilding their teams after the pandemic has passed. Furlough will have ended, and opportunities will be arising. However, a lot of these companies may have quite the shock when they encounter people who no longer wish to work for them, because of how they treated people during the pandemic.”
Looking forward to the future, he believes that companies will have to start paying more attention to the thoughts and feelings of their employees. “In the business world, we have so many metrics to measure how we are performing: turnover, profits, customer insights, productivity targets. But none of that measures how we are feeling. Few companies do collect this employee data, but even less put what they learn into practice.”
At Adam Recruitment, we’re lucky as our management team do care deeply about our employees, and during the pandemic we teamed up with The Happiness Index to get more of these emotional insights, not only from our employees but also our clients, candidates, and social media followers. The results of this survey triggered our investigations and these blog posts, in a bid to start the conversation as well as holding ourselves to account.
“I don’t think that we will return to exactly how things were,” muses Andy, “I think it will be a slow, gradual, and safe unwinding of how things have been up until now. And I think that will lead to more of a focus on our people and helping employees. We’ll hopefully see a shift to more people-centric businesses.”
As a parting thought, Andy quoted Thanos from Avengers: Endgame – “As long as there are those who remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be,” explaining; “This is a cautionary tale. We can choose the future we want. Nothing is inevitable! Some people will want to return to the ‘old normal’, others will be happy to embrace a ‘new normal’. Both are okay and co-exist! Life is a ‘choose your own adventure, and no person can decide that is right for you other than you!”
Maria Mander, Founder of Mander Wellbeing, is an experienced workplace Wellbeing Consultant providing strategic direction to organisations to create a culture of wellness and increase performance for success. She is currently creating a range of bespoke webinars to support companies adjust to current events. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Andy Salkeld is the author of Life Is A Four-Letter Word: A Mental Health Survival Guide for Professionals, which is released on May 14th 2020 and available to pre-order now. Andy advocates positive action around mental health, working closely with business leaders across the UK to help them build mentally healthy cultures. He is a renowned speaker and writer on mental health, entrepreneurship, and finance. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.