Only 21.6% of workers feeling positive about returning to their workplaces post COVID-19 due to fears about their health, and the flexibility working from home has provided, according to new research The Wellbeing Lab conducted with 1,000 workers, representative of the US workforce, recently.  So how can workplaces create a “new normal” where workers feel safe, valued, and productive, while remaining physically-distanced from each other?

“Cultures are formed in the crucible of crisis,” explained Professor David Cooperrider from Case Western Reserve University when we interviewed him recently.  “While it can be challenging to imagine how we can hold the space to bring people together, and embrace all of the uncertainty and the suffering being experienced, the scale of the current disruption also invites the best in each of us to step forward.”

After all, as Leonard Cohen wisely sang, “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack, a crack in everything.  There’s a crack in everything, but that’s how the light gets in.”

David’s research suggests that now, more than ever, we need to help workplaces and communities uncover when they are at their best and what gives them life.  This can’t be done through telling and selling or even consultation, but instead requires a genuine and open invitation to co-create the future.

For example, David has recently worked with organizations to hold safe spaces for online conversations about “Moments of Magnified Meaning Making.”  Employees across these workplaces have come together to discover the following:

  • In light of what you’ve experienced in recent weeks, what is the most important thing stirring in you right now?  How do you sense it relates to your future, your most important hopes, or your larger sense of purpose?
  • All around the world, we are seeing people on the front lines of care in hospitals, businesses, and in our communities.  Everywhere we look, we see people responding in courageous, caring, unexpected ways.  If you could put the spotlight on just one or two of the most powerful stories you’ve seen or heard about, examples that provide you with an image, inspiration, or new understanding of us as human beings and what we’re capable of together, what two stories or examples would you put a spotlight on? (Choose one in society and one in our organization.)
  • In your view, at the largest level, for our world and our country overall, what possible good can come from this crisis, this tragedy, this moment of response?
  • What are two or three of the most powerful things that we want to keep and build? What are two or three new strengths that are bubbling, that have potential, that we want to explore as new foundations?

Based on what had been shared, employees were invited to dream together by imagining what could happen five or ten years from now, if these insights were built upon.  Then they were invited to identify the smallest action and one bolder action that they could take, as an organization, to move them in the direction of this vision.

What can you do to open up conversations in your workplace to co-create the “new normal” together?