As a result of Covid-19, our personal and working relationships have changed forever. In this new normal, we are learning, not without some effort, to do without face-to-face communication, live context, physical presence and, at the same time, to experiment with new forms of contact and connection. There is no doubt that working remotely and having to observe social distancing have had a significant impact on our mental well-being, with consequences that are easy to imagine in terms of performance and productivity as well. So, the questions naturally arise as to whether it is still possible to have authentic, good-quality relationships at work and how you successfully reconcile social distancing with creating empathy and emotional closeness among people.
In the workshop held on how to create empathy in the social distancing era, organised by Phyd on 20 October, Stefania Capelli, People & Communities Manager for Cisco Italy, provided answers to these questions, offering us interesting food for thought on what the next normal will be in companies, when the coronavirus pandemic is over. Based on her many years of experience in HR and on the corporate culture at Cisco, which has been experimenting with smart working since 2005, she explains to us what is required in order to keep alive, despite distancing, interpersonal relationships within the work team, between managers and employees, between business and communities, and how the complexity of the current situation can be transformed into opportunities for the future.
Stefania emphasises on this point how important it is to focus on people, using technology as a means of enabling them to evolve, learn, work in teams and freely manage their own time and work. In the world of a pandemic there can no longer be any scope for individualism, hierarchies or control. Quite the opposite, it is time for autonomy, inclusion, dialogue and debate. People need to communicate more and better, listening actively, even if this is only possible virtually at the moment, and to leave space for ideas and worthwhile stories. And this is the very point that the People & Communities Manager at Cisco emphasises the most during the workshop. It is about our awareness of belonging not only to a corporate world but also of being part of a human project, of being recognised for our skills and of seeing that we are at the service of the whole of society in order to generate meaning, by urging people forward and motivating them at such a profound moment of crisis.
To help us better understand how a company, either small or large, can be turned into an open ecosystem, Stefania Capelli tells us what action Cisco Italy took during the lockdown months and immediately after, and what initiatives were implemented to ensure the safety and health of employees and to maintain an active connection with each of them even though they were working remotely. But she does much more than this: she invites us to imagine the future world of work, the skills which we will need to be resilient, the workplace, which will no longer be just the office, but which can no longer be the dining table at home either, the model for growth, linked increasingly less to profit and more to the well-being of the entire community. This is, in a nutshell, a scenario that is still evolving, but that we need to begin work on now.