The “New Normal” After Covid-19: A Challenge Or An Opportunity?

return to work smart and flexible working Apr 21, 2020

Over the last 2 years in Switzerland, Thriving Talent has seen an increase of organisations seeking help to integrate flexible working models so that they can compete as an employer of choice, to attract and retain talent.

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our clients were at the very beginning of wanting to implement flexible working. Others had written new policies and guidelines, yet employees had not fully adopted new ways of working. Why? 

Typically, it is because the new policy was not part of a cultural change which champions the use of flexible working, as a lever for greater engagement, productivity and well-being. Too many leaders are often still stuck in a mindset of presenteeism and not role modelling, and individuals hold themselves back for fear of career suicide. 

As of the beginning of March 2020, all the obstacles and barriers were forced to disappear as we transitioned into social isolation.

Infrastructure, IT systems, leadership...suddenly it had to be possible to work from home 👨🏻‍💻

For many individuals, their fears and limiting beliefs about working from home equally had to take a back seat. There was no choice.

We had to all quickly adapt and become acclimatised to this new way of working. In a matter of weeks it seems, we will all need to adapt again as we start to emerge from lockdown and trust that we can be physically together.

We cannot go back to what was before...

Professionals have seen how productive they can be working remotely, even in exceptional circumstances when they may have had other family members at home alongside them.

They have felt the benefits of not spending time commuting, they will have found ways to integrate personal and professional commitments, and they may be paying more attention to their well being. 

Essentially expectations have changed. Employees will want to have a better balance and to be able to work remotely to continue.

Organisations can no longer say it's not possible. How do we know that needs have changed? 

According to a recent report by Colombus Consulting, the adaptation of the professional activities in the context of COVID-19 has been achieved for 70% of Swiss people in employment, allowing them to work at a distance in conditions enabling them to be efficient 📊

This positive experience calls for further improvements, as the vast majority (80%) of Swiss people would like to be offered more frequent and common opportunities to work at home in the future.

In the HR Pulse Survey we are running at the moment, results so far reflect that the biggest human capital challenge facing HR leaders today is the anticipation of continued demands for flexible working, followed by managing uncertainty.

If you would like to take part in this survey and gain access to the full results, the deadline for completing the survey is ⏰ Sunday 26 April 2020.

Please click the relevant survey link below to participate: 

📈 English version (EN)

📉 French version (FR)


So, what now?

6 weeks ago, we were all thrown into crisis mode. Despite the impact in China and then Italy, the community in Switzerland was mostly surprised at the speed with which we all moved to social isolation. It was rather unexpected and indeed a CHALLENGE.

However the transition back after COVID-19 isn't unexpected and if managed properly, it is a great OPPORTUNITY. 

Rather than be in ‘react’ mode, this is the time to be ‘proactive.’

"It isn't possible" is no longer an acceptable answer when your employees request flexible working.

What do HR leaders in organisations need to be planning for now?

The 3 C's: Clarity of Culture & Policies, Consistency of Leadership, and Communication are the steps to ensure a seamless transition to a new way of working.


Clear Culture & Policies

As the coronavirus has spread, so has more empathy, compassion and connection across teams, companies, countries and geographies; as we are united by one common challenge. 

There are many examples of how companies are behaving inclusively: more communications from the CEO and SLT, increased technical support, more connections through video calls, increased wellbeing support; and some have offered compassionate leave or reduced hours on full pay for carers to look after children, ageing parents, and sick relatives. 

This is an OPPORTUNITY to further nurture an inclusive culture. What is an inclusive working environment?

According to the CIPD, it is “one in which everyone feels valued, that their contribution matters and they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances. An inclusive workplace enables a diverse range of people to work together effectively.”

📋 Now is the time to review Policies that support an inclusive culture which embraces ‘caring and career’.

We are working with some amazing organisations who are planning to introduce a new carer leave so that employees will be paid if family fall sick and they need to be a carer. 

The CEO at Cisco, Chuck Robbins, last week informed all his employees that he was extending their policy of “Give Back Days” from 5 days to 10 days in 2020; so that Cisco employees could increase their support to communities using working time.

🔑 Prioritising ‘caring and career’ as a human capital strategy is key so that the transition out of this isolation is positive and minimises further business disruption. 

The role of the carer is often associated with a mother, despite the evolution of family structures and generational differences, especially in the last 20 years. Yet, the impact of the coronavirus has highlighted that caring takes many forms - self- care (mental & physical well being), caring for ageing parents, caring for sick relatives/community members, caring for pets and of course, caring for children. 

Having to juggle professional and personal commitments has amplified the awareness of challenges working parents and carers face - there is no pretending we don’t have a family when children (or pets!) have been popping up on video calls. 

What is the OPPORTUNITY here for you and your organisation?

What changes do you want to make to re-define your culture and update your policies; to enable this new culture and way of working? 

Here are some powerful questions for you and your senior leadership team to reflect and discuss:

  • How do you learn from what has gone well, what needs to be improved; to design the best culture for you?
  • What other types of flexible working do you want to consider now that you have catapulted into the world of flex working?
  • What new policies need to be written, what policies need to be changed?
  • What training needs to be given to line managers so they are equipped to understand their role in integrating these new systems and practices?
  • What changes are required to the infrastructure/technology/systems?
  • What is the impact on physical locations?

If you are an HR leader in Switzerland, you are invited to join a free virtual collaborative session to help HR leaders and experts from the Thriving Talent team to leverage their collective intelligence, share innovations and co-create solutions together on this topic. Click here to register.

⚠️ Seats are limited so grab a seat now ⚠️


Consistency of Leadership

For leaders to be consistent, they need to be clear on the vision for the organisation culture, so that they can champion it and role model it. To ensure consistency across the leadership team, this is a great time to review your Inclusive Leadership training.

Ensure everyone has a clear understanding of what inclusion looks like and the role they have in bringing it to life!

Managers need to feel empowered to implement the updated policies and be equipped with practical, time-saving tools; to allow them to be agile as the transition out of the isolation begins.

As has been emphasised already, expectations and needs have changed. Every team member will have been touched differently during this impact. Our “normal” has changed as we have been reminded of the fragilities of our environment and our priorities may have shifted.

This is a great opportunity for leaders and teams to take a step back and re-align on what new ways of working they now want to bring into the team permanently, so they stay engaged, motivated and healthy. Many managers, however, do not have the time to put a process together around this opportunity.

🔧 Make it easy and create consistency for team leaders and managers.

Provide them with a toolkit so that they can self-reflect and then come together to design how they want to move forward, harvesting the lessons that have been learnt.

If you don’t have a toolkit prepared, speak to us: [email protected].

There are 2 OPPORTUNITIES here: a learning opportunity for a team to be even more unified and productive, and an opportunity to be prepared for next time if there is a risk of another wave of isolation (as some predict).


Communication is Crucial

Many professionals have reported how they have appreciated not only the frequency of communications from leaders but also humanity expresses in the messages. Many CEOs and senior leaders have demonstrated empathy, emotional intelligence and an understanding of challenges many of their employees are facing. 

💬 These communications need to continue after the pandemic, where people’s whole lives are valued and employees feel they can bring their whole selves to work. 

Many global teams are a mix of on-site and remote workers, across the globe. When we deliver our “Managing Diverse Needs in Diverse Teams” training to people managers to tackle biases, one challenge consistently described is that remote workers feel “left out” and more distant from the team. 

This period of social isolation has provided a great OPPORTUNITY to increase the awareness and empathy of those on-site workers to the world of remote working. It has been a “leveller”, which is likely to result in more inclusive behaviour by team members when we transition back to the “new normal”.



As our work at Thriving Talent has evolved over the last 10 years, it has become very clear that enabling caring and career is a significant lever for gender parity. In terms of economic participation, the gender gap will take 54 years to close in Western Europe. 

The more you enable a culture, role modelled by leaders, that upholds the ability to have a career and a caring role; the quicker you reach gender parity.

The opportunity to close this gap, coupled with the belief that we all have the right to choose both a career and a caring role; underpins the work we do at Thriving Talent!

Please do let us know how we can help you, so together we can have a long term impact and accelerate gender parity. 

➡ HR Pulse Survey: Take me to the survey (EN) or Allez à l'enquête (FR)

➡ Virtual Workshop: Sign up for the virtual workshop here

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.




© 2022 Thriving Talent Sarl