“The reality is we are never going back. We can only move forward into a new reality. That new reality will retain some of the familiar, but I am increasingly convinced it will also contain an astonishing amount of new.” - Mary Faulkner

The concept of a crucible is simple. The official definition is a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.

Sound familiar?

At the risk of being called Captain Obvious, we know that the way we work fundamentally has been changed forever. Our eyes have been opened about which roles actually keep society functioning. We have been challenged to be creative about jobs that can work from home, and managers are rethinking what it means to lead a team they cannot see every day. Furthermore, employees have had to rethink work/life “integration” – meaning the traditional 9 to 5 job is no more.

My hope is that this recent crucible of events doesn’t just change “work;” but that it changes the way we even think about work. With a few exceptions, most workplaces have tossed the existing rulebook out the window and are making it up as they go. They’re considering things more on a case-by-case basis and boiling things down to what is truly important. They’re trusting people more – whether it’s trusting them to get their work done, or trusting them to make the best decisions for their health and their family’s health. They are willing to make space for the chaos and do their best for as long as they can.

I know there are bad actors out there. HR departments and leaders who want to force people to check in every hour on a video call to prove they’re working; or who think they have to create a temporary bereavement policy to account for delayed memorial services. Or want to make people fill out a form to request an accommodation during what may be the scariest time of their lives. I’m including these real-life examples not to shame them (well, not JUST to shame them), but to illustrate two ends of the same spectrum of how an organization might respond to the current crucible we find ourselves in.

photo of Mary Faulkner, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

Mary Faulkner, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

The reality is we are never going back. We can only move forward into a new reality. That new reality will retain some of the familiar, but I am increasingly convinced it will also contain an astonishing amount of new. Those who emerge hardened by the flames, stronger because of their resilience and ability to adapt to the new circumstances will be in a position to move us forward. They will help us rethink our approach to recruiting, developing and retaining talent. They will push for more intelligent pay practices – especially for the employees who used to be an afterthought, and yet are now more important than ever. They will challenge our approach to employee wellbeing, whether it’s medical, financial, mental. They will show us that there is a way forward – it just might not be the path we expected.

Over and over again, we hear about how we will live through this, but it will be worse before it gets better. And I know there are those of you out there who are reading this article who recently had their hours cut, or were furloughed, or were laid off without any severance. I don’t want to diminish the challenges faced. I can only offer a sincere wish that we find our way through together.

I find hope in the fact that so many industries have found a way to pivot to a new approach in the short-term in an effort to survive long enough to explore the long-term. I am touched to see how communities are coming together to think about the most vulnerable among us. I am encouraged by the abandonment of bureaucracy in the interest of what’s best for people, at last.

As we experience this crucible together, let’s emerge stronger than before – supporting each other, rethinking old truths, and with an eye towards a better way of thinking about not only work, but the world in general.

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