What important lessons can Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs give us in the current economic situation?

Some of you may have seen a short learning resource I wrote around managing emotions around promotion in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If not see here:

This got me thinking about managing furlough and the return to work following this period, in relation to Maslow, and whether this is valid in these times.
Someone gave my son a mug one Christmas with a picture on it depicting a level below basic human needs – being wifi. It was funny, and possibly apt at the time, BUT never did we think it would actually be true.

In these new times it is perhaps more true than ever that we can’t cope without Wi-Fi. Everything we’ve had to do, working from home, communicating with our families, even doing our shopping, has become completely reliant on us having a good Wi-Fi connection.

During this period even those BASIC NEEDS, excluding Wi-Fi, air; shelter; water; food; have become a challenge in some ways. Our shelter, our home, where we have always felt we belonged has become a prison, and therefore possibly not feeling as much of a safe haven as it should have been. We’ve had food shortages, had to go without pasta!! Air is needed to be breathed through a mask in some situations and things we took for granted like going for a walk whenever we wanted to, right at the start of lockdown was limited to once a day, if that.

Moving up to SAFETY AND SECURITY the next level of the pyramid. This has in some ways become almost non-existent. People haven’t felt safe, people haven’t felt secure, and this has pushed them down the pyramid to that basic needs level, the survival level. There’s been rules and guidelines and government advice aplenty, but has this helped us to feel safe or has it added to further confusion again, not allowing us the clarity needed to feel safe and secure.

SOCIAL NEEDS the 3rd third rung of the pyramid rarely if ever has this been so difficult. Friends and family were at a distance; if we wanted to talk to them we had to talk to them via social media, via video, via telephone, but in person our family groups shrunk down to very small numbers. Some of the social activities we took for granted like going out to the pub or going to meet friends even taking part in our hobbies and all the things that join us together, have been really, really difficult if not impossible .

Without these basic needs being met it’s almost impossible to move up the pyramid. I would think that most people felt a lack of confidence, and a lack of motivation and achievement.

For those on furlough, as well as all of the above challenges to contend with, they also had to deal with enforced removal of work – which provides us with a social element, financial security, as well as the means to meet our basic needs. This will also have chipped away at the ESTEEM if this had been in place.

Now as people return to work and school, how easily will this be built up again. For those furloughed staff who are lucky enough to return to their ‘old’ job, after an initial adjustment,  it might be possible to rekindle the relationships with work colleagues. There are going to be huge opportunities for people to achieve recognition, solve problems and demonstrate skills they hadn’t shown before. Some people will have taken advantage of some of the many learning opportunities that have been offered to those at home, often at reduced rates, and will return to their workplace, will new skills and knowledge making them more valuable to their employers than they were before.

But as we know, the world of work has changed over the course of this year. Many people will return to work after furlough to find that their jobs have changed dramatically, or disappeared. These people will sink to the lower half of the pyramid, as they will also then enter a very changed job seekers environment. And what of those staff who worked flat out throughout the furlough period, through all the nice weather, and the slower pace of life, who were too busy to learn new skills and attend lots of free online training courses. They are going to feel an element of resentment, and worry about the security of their jobs for very different reasons.

So to help people journey up the pyramid, towards SELF-ACTUALISATION we are all going to need to show a little empathy, seek to understand what others are feeling, recognise where others might need a helping hand. I think that what this year has shown us, and what we mustn’t forget when we settle into the ‘new normal’ is that everyone pulled together for a few months, people made an effort to check on others wellbeing, and this is what needs to continue over the next months.

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