Published September 20, 2022
By analyzing how leaders have reacted to past crises, a new School of Management study reveals what the workplace of the future might look like.
Available online ahead of publication in the Journal of Management History, the research suggests several changes will come to the workplace in the wake of COVID-19, including an accelerated adoption of virtual technologies, altered health behaviors and an increased emphasis on autonomy between employees and their managers.
“Crises can result in permanent changes in our social and work lives, in ways we never could have realized before the crisis,” says Kate Bezrukova, associate professor of organization and human resources. “By understanding previous crises, managers and organizations can adapt when faced with similar catastrophes.”
From the nine past crises researchers studied, here are a few examples of the unexpected — and sometimes beneficial — outcomes:
Researchers say the outcomes of these crises show how leaders can effect change, and provide hints to what might lie ahead as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Leaders should leverage their personal strengths to bring about change, such as how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has used his broadcasting and performing experience in video appeals for external aid and support in defense against the Russian invasion,” says Bezrukova.
“As we inch toward the other side of this pandemic, we have an opportunity to rethink our broken relationship to work,” she says. “In many ways, the pandemic was an inflection point, and what happens next is up to us. We’ve found there are benefits to virtual work, wearing masks and improved ventilation, and ‘pandemic epiphanies’ have led to fundamental reassessments of our place in the working world.”
Bezrukova collaborated on the study with Chester Spell, professor of management at the Rutgers University School of Business.