As we all know, normality is a question of perspective. ‘That’s not normal!’ some people might say. Others might ask ‘What is normal?’. And the next group will claim ‘Normal is boring’. And: Who wants to be boring? Don’t we all want to be a little bit different? And don’t we have to be a little different in order to be innovative? But if everyone is different, then what is normal? Does the category “normal” still work in the VUCA world, where things are changing at a rapid pace?
If you’re looking for an easy answer to the question “What is the New Normal”, you will be disappointed. Instead we need to uncover the core values of the organization that we are working for and, from there, pave new paths for collaboration together. The result? – Unknown. And that’s a good thing.
Normality is a paved road; It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.
(Vincent Van Gogh)
New Normal is not possible without New Work
As a result of the Corona crisis, many companies had to deal with New Work and new, digital forms of work for the first time. They had no choice but to try things out, without the usual multi-level application process, but with a large dose of pioneering spirit. According to a representative study by the Fraunhofer Institute, 57 percent of those primarily employed in the area of Human Resources conducted virtual interviews for the first time ever during the lockdown. For people, like us at Tandemploy, who have been working remotely and with maximum flexibility from the beginning, this is happening way too late. Why only now?
At the same time, even after Corona, there are still company managers who adhere to a compulsory presence as a basic principle of cooperation and are already ordering their first colleagues back to the office. How can that be? What other argument can there be against a flexible workplace, apart from the fear of losing control of a few managers? Companies that base their New Normality on this diffuse fear will have a hard time in the future. “It’s not normal!” is what they will get to hear and feel from their employees and those so urgently needed specialists. These organizations are biting the hand that feeds them: the wonderful, talented and capable people who actually want to offer their skills to the organization. It could have been so good.
New Normal is not a concept, but a mindset
How do companies manage to establish a New Normal that reflects the current realities of work and life? It’s no longer just a matter of “a little bit of home office”, because employees can obviously handle it well. Of course they can! With the right structures and operating options, they can do even more. Bold companies take advantage of the “window of opportunity” that Covid-19 has presented them and shape their transformation together with their employees. It is up to them to define what is normal for them and how they can combine New Work and New Normal in a meaningful way. Because one thing is also clear: there is not just one New Normal, just like there is not just one set of instructions for New Work. Both are a mindset. Both focus on maximum openness and the willingness to create a (working) world that puts people, their abilities and needs first. Companies that consistently base their structures and decisions on this can’t be thrown off track by anything so quickly. They remain connected at their core, whether analog or virtual, and thus strong and resilient. At the same time, they create the best conditions for producing true innovations (spoiler: flexible work conditions on their own are not one.).
New Normal means maximum connection
Perhaps this is precisely the lowest common denominator of the much-discussed New Normal: connection – across departments, positions and even spatial boundaries. In order to achieve this, companies must bid farewell to old narratives and replace them with new ones. We have a few suggestions.
5 approaches for a New Normal
- Connection is not merely a product of physical proximity. It arises primarily through a common goal. For organisations, New Normal means not only conveying to their employees “WHAT we do”, but above all “WHY we do it”.
- Connection is created through encounters and exchanges. During the lockdown, a wave of support arose – in neighbourhood networks, for your favourite bookshop or the little café around the corner. They are all places of encounter. For organisations, New Normal means creating such places, both physically, but also and above all in the digital space. A digital marketplace for employees, where you meet to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences – totally normal!
- Connection is created through shared new experiences. New Normal is the opposite of routine. A project in a new team, a short assignment at a different location with new tasks and colleagues – what used to be the exception should become the rule from now on. Just normal.
- Connection comes from understanding. Covid-19 has shown us in a drastic way that planning and control in a globalised world can only work to a limited extent. Neither Digital Native nor Boomer have a master plan up their sleeve to meet the challenges of this era. The best strategy is one of cooperation between young and old. We can all learn from each other. Where valuable experience and digital skills meet, the sweet spot of the New Normal is created.
- Connection comes from more time. Time away from your day job. With digital tools and a lively transfer of knowledge in companies, we can accomplish much more in less time today than we did 10 years ago. Nobody needs the rigid 40 hour week any more. If people have time for ALL important areas of their lives – family, friends, hobbies, volunteer work, nutrition, sports, … – then they will appreciate their employee work all the more and release completely new creative energy.
Will the changes that Corona affected in the working world last? What will remain when the reason for change changes? – The coming weeks and months will tell. Now it is up to each individual organisation to make the new achievements the norm. The window of opportunity is wide open.
That was the strangest thing about this revolution: Monday night was a revolution, and by Tuesday morning everybody was going back to work in an orderly fashion.