Every great crisis challenges cherished assumptions about how things work. The result of disaster can be very positive. At the darkest hour of World War II, in late 1942, the UK published the Beveridge Report that led to the revolution called the welfare state. World War I led to universal male suffrage: if you could die for your country, you could vote for your country. Even the black death had a silver lining for the peasants who survived, as it brought about the end of serfdom.
One example from this crisis is the chance to rethink assumptions about the office. We are discovering whether we really need to work in offices all the time. The reality is that we do need offices for three reasons:
- we are social animals and we crave interaction
- the office gives focus and structure to our working day
- we need to meet in person from time to time: technology is good for efficient communication but lousy at effective communication. Effective communication is built on the bedrock of mutual trust and understanding. Trust is built face to face, not remotely which is one reason national leaders spend so much time globetrotting to meet each other.
But none of these reasons mean we have to be in the office five days a week. This crisis paves the way for much more agile, remote and flexible working that could be another huge boost towards helping gender balance.
We all know that we should use the good times to prepare for bad times. But the opposite is also true. We should use the bad times to prepare for the good times. This crisis should help us all see our work with fresh eyes. Like a stranger in a foreign land we will wonder why the locals have such curious and exotic practices. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see things afresh, challenge assumptions and change the way things work. Seize the moment to turn crisis into opportunity.
For more guidance on how to adapt in response to the Covid-19 crisis, visit our Leading Through Uncertainty hub.
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