Remember the halcyon days when life was about self-fulfilment? Going to work and being part of a company were opportunities to realise your potential, grow personally and be rewarded for a job well done. Before the pandemic we were living at the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those of you who have not thought about Maslow recently, here is a reminder. He posited, back in 1943, that humans have five levels of needs. Those needs lower down in the hierarchy (physiological, safety, love and belonging) must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up (esteem and, ultimately, self-actualisation).
Over the past several months our priorities as Generation Lockdown have changed; our desire for esteem and self-actualisation, in life generally and in the workplace specifically, have been put on hold as we look to fulfil our basic physiological and safety needs and as our relationships with family, friends and work colleagues are challenged.
Knight Frank raise an interesting question: what can Maslow teach us about returning to the workplace? There is no doubt it helps to create a successful post-COVID workplace strategy for your team.
1. The first priority is to understand your employees’ physiological needs.
Despite the experience of COVID-19 being collectively formative for Generation Lockdown, all of us have been affected differently, sometimes markedly so – from those spending more time with their family than ever before or enjoying the benefits of working from home, to those having to manage schooling or face redundancy, and those living with the weight of grief and isolation.
Responding to this, there is a need for business leaders to put in place a comprehensive programme of employee engagement and support services that acknowledges individual experiences during lockdown and their potential impact on mental health, wellbeing and productivity. Now is the time to consider an employee counselling service and a forum for people to share their experiences and seek advice.
2. The second priority is to recognise differences in employee attitudes to safety and security.
A white paper by The Liganova Group suggests that there is a spectrum of Generation Lockdown attitudes and behaviours emerging, between desire for safety and security and desire for experience.
Attitudes vary by generation and personal circumstances during lockdown. Within your workforce there will be employees who are fearful of a return to the office in the absence of a proven vaccine. At the other end of the spectrum there will be employees who, deprived of experience during lockdown, will be desperate to get out of the house and back to office life. Travelling to and being in the office will not suit all and neither will working remotely. What is key is that, having had the experience of lockdown, employees are given more autonomy to tailor their own work-life.
3. The third priority is to rebuild human connection and a sense of belonging for employees.
One of the great benefits of the physical office that has been deprived for many of us during national and now regional lockdown is its ability to foster human relationships and to create a real sense of community for employees and customers alike. No amount of virtual interaction can substitute for face to face communication and being together as a team. Creating a hybrid workplace model in which employees spend part of their time in the office and part working remotely is the key.
It's only once these basic priorities are re-established that we can create a truly fulfilling workplace for Generation Lockdown.