The Great Reset and Our New Work-life

Katie Sprague June 22, 2020

Never in the history of our planet has this happened. In the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world: sickening people by the millions and killing them by the hundreds of thousands. The virus is not to be taken lightly, and neither are the lessons that we will learn from this period of rare reflection.

For the luckiest of us, it drastically changed the reality of our daily routines. People retreated to their homes. Cars were absent from the highways. Shopping slowed. Social hubs of activity ground to a halt. Skies became bluer. Birds became louder, or at least we stopped to notice their songs. People discovered small wonders in their neighborhoods. Technology connected many of us. Work for some continued as they discovered the untapped potential of “WFH,” while many lost their jobs or had their compensation cut drastically.

In the midst of this global tragedy, this reset has also given us a chance to reset our frame of reference. A reason to re-think what has always been “normal.” As many countries begin to return to the office, it’s a chance to ask ourselves: what do we truly value? From my point of view, a few thoughts:

  • The need to be together. We are social beings, and we crave real connections.
  • The ability to choose – imagine working from anywhere
  • A focus on health and safety, and our company’s promise to protect.
  • The invitation to be real. Not our work persona or our home persona, but both.
  • A focus on what really matters, for companies, for communities, for individuals.

We have a rare opportunity to apply lessons learned from The Great Reset as we return to the office. By reframing our approach to work and life together, we begin to create a new, long-range vision of a balanced life that is safe, healthy, connected and happy: a new model of a blended “Worklife.”

These five key work-life values can help us guide our return to the office:

True Engagement
Yes, it’s true that Boomers are Zooming right along with everyone else, but don’t we all miss looking people in the eye and appreciating the energy and creativity that flows from being in a room together? How might we recognize the need for actual connection while respecting safe distancing practices?

Personal Freedom
With more options to work when, where and how we’d like, this new-found freedom will become an essential part of work in the future. Will we embrace the idea of focused work that happens at home and collaborative work that happens in the office?

Vitality and Wellbeing
No doubt we’ll spend a year focusing on the office being a sanitized and socially distant space. But a healthy work environment also needs to be a place of mental wellbeing where people feel safe: moving from fear to calm, from alienation to responsible connectedness. Can we evolve our office environment outside of simply sanitizing spaces to also be places that foster positive psychology?

Authentic Delight
We have discovered a new side to our co-workers, whether it’s simply a glimpse of their bookshelves as background or a trial run at being their own barber. People are bringing their authentic selves to work and for many of us, it has been delightful. How might we bring these delightful insights back to work with us in a way that embraces that same degree of authenticity in the office?

Reaffirmed Meaning
Like in any crisis, the pandemic is shining a light on our own personal values as well as corporate values. Many companies find themselves balancing economic challenges and the welfare of their employees. Many will struggle with difficult decisions, but this reset is a time for transparency and clear communications. A time to let everyone know what truly matters to them. Shouldn’t employees be able to see a company’s values in action, especially during times of crisis?

It has been said that “The trauma of the pandemic has shown us things that cannot be unseen.” Death, suffering and inequity are present all around us. But we have seen heroism, creativity and insight as well– an invitation for innovation in all aspects of our lives. May we use this Great Reset to re-affirm what we value, both in our personal lives and our work lives, as they merge together in new ways of being.

Author Spotlight

Katie Sprague
Katie is the global leader of CallisonRTKL's Environments studio-- a group that specializes in the creation of branded environments. As a brand strategist, she brings a human-centric focus to all her projects, complementing CallisonRTKL’s architectural process with components of experience design. Her current passion is an initiative called “Happiness By Design:" a methodology to measure and apply happiness in the built environment. Now more than ever, her hope is to bring a little more happiness to all her work.