The global pandemic has forced many of us to adapt to “a new normal” quickly. As we head into the 7th week of lockdown in Switzerland, I want to share with you my takeaways for working life.

1.      A good team can become great

I have been blown away by the commitment and energy of our teams. From those writing from across the world about the great work they’re doing to keep the wheels of life turning, to my own team’s engagement despite the varying challenges of managing their immediate and extended family situation alongside work. I feel really proud of colleagues I haven’t even met (yet) for how they take care of each other and customers in this challenging time. This crisis has shown me the many strengths in our people.

2.      Working from home is more intense than expected

I would have thought that having extra time, no business travel and no commute would make the situation a lot less stressful. But as the clear distinction between work and home becomes blurred , I find myself needing to be dragged away from my computer sometimes. I am lucky that with older children (and a teacher husband) I can really focus. My colleagues – many who have much more to juggle – also need to be persuaded to walk away from work; even more so when they are starting early and finishing late to fit around children’s home learning or simply their demand for time. Now, it is even more important to consciously structure your daily schedules and to stick to them. 

One takeaway is that intrinsic motivation drives us in any situation.

3.      Having a little tool to hide your camera can be a life or reputation saver

With early calls, I confess that sometimes I start in my PJs… I agree with the many comments about starting in the normal way and being ‘dressed’ for the start of the day, but I have never been one for early mornings. I had a ‘near miss’ to start a call with video where I really didn’t want to be seen. I was happy for my little camera cover!

That said, I have found it extremely valuable to have video meetings – informally and just for chats with colleagues – as you connect more personally than with the camera turned off. Clearly, it is a question of bandwidth and the time of day!

4.      In a crisis, well managed employee communications comes into its own

Our employee engagement professionals have done an amazing job to develop meaningful content and to engage the organization to share best practice and stories. In our business, reach and engagement on Yammer,  our internal social media platform, is the highest to date since it was launched last year. We have encouraged people all over the world to share their experience and our leaders have actively commented and shared their stories.

5.      If a company genuinely cares (and that means the leadership team) there is a big benefit

In a challenging time, strong leadership becomes a critical success factor and with the natural anxiety of the current situation, empathy and authentic leadership helps enormously. From many conversations and the posts I have read, it seems that employees at Siemens feel cared for – it is universally known that the number one priority is employee health, safety and well-being. Employees will sense if there is authenticity about the priority. In our business, there is a lot of very positive feedback that management genuinely cares about our people and customers right now. How we respond to the challenge will have an impact for the years to come.

6.      The crisis will lead to a paradigm shift in the application of digital solutions

Our IT teams around the world did an amazing job to set up the infrastructure for 130,000 new remote workers in a matter of days. Beyond this, we see colleagues at their kitchen tables managing to calibrate the ventilation for hospital extensions, or managing remote acceptance testing by video. Colleagues and partners are helping with 3D manufacturing of a range of healthcare equipment. Greek philosopher, Plato, reportedly said “necessity is the mother of invention”. This new situation is seeing new levels of innovation and collaboration. The hope is that we benefit from this well beyond this crisis.

From a communications standpoint, a big question is how we can nail our virtual events to be a viable alternative to in-person events and fairs. We have some exciting projects – I see this as a once in a career opportunity.

7.      Gratitude is a powerful state of mind

I learned this during a challenging time at work. If you focus on what you can be grateful for it helps. Yes, I desperately want to be able to hug my Mum (we are only just “getting used” to my Dad’s sudden death in January). Yes, I would love to meet friends for dinner. Yes, I would love a face-to-face brainstorm with the team. However, I feel lucky that my children are doing well with their home learning; daily video calls to my Mum help; I am able to carry on working; and, most important of all, my family and friends are healthy right now.

Last thoughts

So, please raise your hands if you need help and support each other through this extraordinary time. I truly believe this will change some things forever, but won’t we all appreciate it when we can have that face to face contact with family, friends and colleagues – that we took for granted just months ago? To end with another quote “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – we will appreciate ‘normal life’ or the ‘#newnormal’ more than ever… Hopefully. 

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