I’m sure you’ve heard by now the phrase “new normal” so many times you are probably getting fed up with it. Well, the reality is that the world has changed irrevocably since the outbreak of CoViD-19.
While governments have been busy trying to “flatten the curve”, or, simply put, slow down the progression of the virus, digitally, the workplace has also been flattened.
In his groundbreaking book, The World Is Flat, first published 15 years ago in 2005, Thomas Friedman, predicted a time when we will all become neighbours; digitally that is.
We are now living and working in Thomas Friedman’s envisioned ‘flat world’. The virus has forced an acceleration of this flattening by demanding that people stay and work from home.
There are, however, challenges with the new paradigm. We’ve been used to the idea of waking up in the morning and being in the office by 8.00 am, and then leaving at 4.00 pm or 5.00 pm; or thereabouts.
Now, we are waking up to go to work in our homes. The distance to work could be ‘zero’ if you choose to work from bed, or a few steps towards a dedicated area of your house.
We now talk about holding ‘online meetings’ instead of ‘meetings’. To demonstrate how flat the world has become, companies are holding meetings with staff across the world.
No longer does the CEO of a multinational company has to take a flight to check on staff in another nation. He or she can simply call everyone’s attention to a scheduled online meeting.
With all these changes, what do you, as an employee, need to do to adjust to the “new normal’ and ensure your job remains relevant? Here are four tips:
1. Shore up your Digital Skills
To be employable or to keep your job, it’s no longer whether you need cutting-edge digital skills. It’s a prerequisite for the new workplace normal. While brushing up your digital skills will not guarantee job security, it will certainly boost your creativity and resilience. It will also help you get the job done by creatively collaborating with teams across the world via digital platforms.
Team leaders, especially, will need expert digital skills to manage and motivate globally displaced teams. On the other hand, as a job seeker, you will be unlikely to get a job if you can’t compete in the post-COVID, furiously-changing digital workplace.
2. Read Up on Auxiliary Skills
Besides digital skills, you need to brush up on your auxiliary skills. These include problem-solving and collaboration skills, which have never been as critical as they are today.
Online interactions, while impressive, do not have the same impact as person-to-person engagements. Coordinating an online team of staff in different geographical locations can be tough.
Getting everyone to work as a team and focus on the tasks at hand without duplication, and sticking to deadlines, requires one to be extremely adept at collaboration and problem-solving. Luckily, these are learnable skills you can add to your arsenal now as you wait for the lifting of the current return-to-work restrictions.
3. Evaluate your Skillsets and Fill the Gaps
Working from home has many advantages. The most important is the fact that your daily, time-consuming commute is eliminated. How about using this time to assess and expand your skillsets. The new skills will put you a step ahead of others, and perhaps even get you a promotion.
The caution here, however, is that you need to be extremely focused to avoid or minimize distractions that often get in the way while working from home. Get on the right path right now and do a diagnostics of your skillsets to establish where you’re lacking. Next, use the time you have to get the training you need and you’ll be headhunted in a coronavirus-free world.
4. Plan for a Post COVID-19 Future
Even before COVID-19, planning for the future was not an easy task. It’s doubly tricky in the current scenario to plan for a future with little or no guarantees. However, failing to plan is never a good plan.
Do a series of personal scenario planning to see how you fit within the new dynamics. Think of where job focus will go and align yourself, skill-wise, so you can be the go-to person for new jobs. Skill on those gaps to be ready for the new job spaces in a post-pandemic world.
While doing scenario planning, avoid the temptation to overly weigh in on anticipated trends. Bet on tried-and-tested trends and identify gaps and dots that need to be connected once the pandemic is over. This is where the new jobs will be; and being skilled in these areas will put you ahead of the pack.
The world has changed. In a sense, we are not going back to business as we knew it. We’ve been reset to a new normal that has changed the workplace landscape.
While millions of jobs have been lost as a result of containment measures aimed at stopping the current pandemic, the future is replete with opportunities. However, only those who are prepared when the opportunities come calling will get ahead of their colleagues.
Those who refuse to adapt and change with the times will, unfortunately, be stuck in a time warp. Theirs will be the stuff that bedtime stories are made of: “once upon a time when the workplace was a physical place …”
Get yourself skilled up. Position yourself for opportunities in a borderless workplace that has been flattened by modern digital technology.