As we continue to recover from the COVID pandemic, the opportunity to innovate truly abounds in workplaces. While budgets are being drastically revised to accommodate technology, little attention has been paid to how to evolve organizational structures to meet new mandates and accomplish new projects that emerge in a post-pandemic world. One positive observation of this pandemic is that change is possible. In fact, rapid change is possible.
If we are to “strike when the iron is hot,” let’s also re-envision our organizational structures to support the recovery of our greatest asset:
Throughout the pandemic, I have been able to actively observe, reflect, and analyze organizational structures and processes that support employees. The culmination of this process has led me to identify six key areas that require leadership.
Creating these new positions communicates a message of post-pandemic recovery that focuses on the wellbeing of employees and supportive workplace culture.
1. Director of Kindness
Time and time again, the word of this pandemic has been kindness. Kindness is a choice. A choice that sets the tone of any interaction, either in person or virtually. Kindness can be as simple as a smile, a personalized email greeting, or even a well selected emoji (😉) . It has a profound ability to shift culture. One of my favourite quotes that conveys this message comes from Amelia Earhart: A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. An effective way to support kindness is to model it; thus, a leader whose sole responsibility is to promote kindness offers a vital way to signal changes in workplace culture. As we recover from this pandemic, let’s engage a Director of Kindness who can support our replanting efforts by offering both the seeds and the context in which to grow and sustain a thriving culture of kindness.
2. Director of Reasonableness
Reasonableness is probably the word I use most often, particularly as a parent and psychologist. Although reasonableness is most often applied in legal and financial situations, it harkens the notion of good fate in actions. I see it as remembering that we are humans first and employees second. This means we seek to connect and resolve, by keeping our egos in check and considering the impact of our own actions on others. Reasonableness encourages us to pause and reflect on our actions in a situation. Ideally, it enables us to focus on the situation, and not ourselves. Time and time again, I have witnessed people dig in their heels to defend their position, while not focusing on what actions will resolve a situation. Reasonableness encourages us to engage in perspective taking, getting us outside of ourselves and allows us to view the situation or problem from a broader vantage point. A Director of Reasonableness would provide guidance on the skills needed to identify our own blinders and strategies to refocus conversations on solutions and away from on egos. I firmly believe that investment in a Director of Reasonableness is an effective way to promote a collaborative workplace culture.
3. Director of Gratitude
Much has been written on the benefits of gratitude. At first glance, you might see that gratitude is really about recognition and celebration of successes. Perhaps you think of employee awards as being akin to gratitude. Instead, focus on appreciation and affirmation of others in simple and meaningful ways. The receipt of a simple email that affirms how well you handled a situation can make someone’s day. I have woven gratitude seamlessly into my daily life through two key practises. Once a week, I send an email of genuine appreciation to one person. If you pause for a second or two, you have the ability to capture the moment where someone’s actions made you smile or offered you relief. Taking the time to acknowledge those small moments fosters a supportive workplace culture. My second practise involves my frequent shout-outs (metaphorically, not literally) to recognize others’ contributions. A quick email of thanks for someone who generously set up the Zoom link for your meeting is an easy one.
4. Director of Laughter
When I moved into a new role recently, I was struck by the sheer number of times I spent laughing with my colleagues. It provided such a sense of connection and lightness; it made me realize that I had missed this in other settings. I have embraced that humour and sarcasm are in fact my earned middle names. (Elizabeth is my given middle name; in case you were wondering.) I have been told more than once to be quiet when I laughed- and like Betty-Ann Heggie I wondered if this was an omen. Instead, I have embraced this side of me and I see laughter as a way to build connections in the workplace. Finding a shared experience to commiserate about is a sure way to incite genuine laughter. For some, this has been the reporting on the invasion strategies of urban raccoons. For others, it has been the benefits of “adaptive and flexible menu planning” where cereal constitutes a meal if served with dairy. Imagine if Director of Laughter was a Comedian-in-Residence who supported leaders and employees to identify the common grounds for laughter and connection.
5. Director of Artistic Appreciation
This pandemic has opened my eyes in two distinct, yet connected, ways to appreciate art. I have taken up walking and spend my time appreciating nature around me. This evolved into taking pictures of the awe-filled scenes during my walks. I also joined online art classes and found that I was filling a void I didn’t truly know was there: appreciating artistic beauty.
Art has helped me establish a daily mindfulness practise and added a new dimension through which I observe and connect with nature.
By awakening the creative and artistic part of us, we can enhance our mindfulness work and find new ways to connect with others. For one of my mentors, she included a piece of art in the strategic plan to capture the sentiment and vision for her plans. Art also engages another side of our brain; and thus, opportunities to appreciates art allows us to engage our full selves in the workplace. A Director of Artistic Appreciation can nudge us to consider all the ways in which humans create art, and model for us how to use art to connect with others. I think this can shift a culture to a human connection instead of a battle of the egos.
6. Director of Adventure
The benefits for reframing events and experiences in one’s life is a key aspect of cognitive behavioural therapy. For example, you could be encouraged to reframe a “problem” as an opportunity. However, opportunity connotes that you have the ability to join or not. Right now, we are living in a pandemic and cannot decline to participate in this opportunity (🤬). Yet, our recovery from the pandemic could be reframed as an opportunity for adventure.
I LOVE ADVENTURES because they are mix of challenge, excitement, and growth (yes, I shouted that at you).
If a Director of Adventure could highlight the excitement about the potential paths to chart during unprecedented times, there is an opportunity for employees to experience curiosity and enthusiasm, instead of fear or anger. The beauty of this reframe is that without the challenge, growth cannot be achieved or celebrated. Radically accepting this pandemic as an adventure is beneficial; it offers a challenge which provides unanticipated yet exciting teachings and lessons. As well, the uncertainty of an adventure is reframed as being open to surprise, and maybe even excitement, as there is no fixed time table or agenda.
I hope that you have had a chance to reconsider the ways in which our work experiences can also change during COVID. True, it’s not that those positions are needed solely because of pandemic! Indeed, they would have been beneficial in pre-pandemic times. I simply want to recognize that if the pandemic has provided any benefit, it has been the incredible demonstration that change is possible.
In this recovery phase, let’s be sure to focus on intentional changes to our organizational structures that can support a positive workplace culture that promotes connection and wellness.
I hope you jump aboard for this next adventure!