As has been said many times, we are in the same storm but very different boats. Even now, more than nine months on, we are all continuing to be disrupted by Covid-19 – some more than others.
As we come out of the festive and New Year break we face what looks like many more months of strict lockdown. Until we are able realise the benefit from the vaccination programme, our reality is home schooling for our children, stricter restrictions on our liberties, and also accepting that for many, our jobs are insecure or under extreme pressure.
And just when we started to believe that things were getting better, we must once again face the stark reality that many of us are now in: high levels of anxiety, extreme pressures to cope, financial insecurity, and demands from family responsibilities balanced against working from home. Meanwhile, the digital divide around access to broadband and technology is widening.
This reality is disproportionately affecting women, especially as single parents. Even in the most modern of family units where the parental responsibilities are shared, the mother figure is often the default person sought by children for education and emotional support.
This pressure is setting many women’s positions in the workplace back by decades, further increasing pay and opportunity gaps and creating job insecurity as they split responsibilities between work and family.
We must recognise that we can no longer claim unfettered access to our people from 9 to 5, instead accepting bite-sized chunks of time that allow people to incorporate their family responsibilities within their workday to create fair and equitable employment.
The future of work is being defined by the way organisations adapt their workforce expectations and focus on the needs of individuals, and this will set them apart from competitors.
We are in a time where talent is in over-abundance and organisations have choice, where most jobs are a thousand times oversubscribed. I would encourage organisations not to abuse this power – people have long memories and will remember how you make them feel.
Building a sustainable modern workforce is about being person-centric, valuing adaptability and recognising that not everyone wants to be treated or motivated in the same way. Organisations need to ensure no one is being left behind, and understand the challenges faced by some and how the extra support and flexibility they require can be provided.
How do your people feel – included and valued? Have you asked them lately?
Joanne Lockwood is an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen
Originally published in the Herald, Scotland