The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic isn't over, and how we work as teams has changed. Technology can facilitate your team's ongoing transition without overtaking it.
There has been nonstop talk about how the pandemic will change the world as we know it. Much of the discussion has centered on the changing office environment, staying sane in quarantine, and whether people need to return to major cities for post-pandemic job opportunities.
While those are significant topics, it's also vital to recognize the world is reckoning with technology – what it means, what it is and what it could be.
The pandemic has brought to light vulnerabilities for some companies that did not adequately plan for a time when employees might need to work from somewhere other than the office. Sadly, those organizations may not recover. Simultaneously, companies that pivoted and reinvented themselves to survive this new reality and maintain operations are well positioned for life beyond the coronavirus.
Use technology to enhance relationships and build your team for optimal performance as we navigate what comes next. We are only beginning to see what lies ahead. The next few months may be challenging and uncertain, but they will lay the foundation for at least the next 24-36 months.
What do workers think?
For many, working from home has been an eye-opening, if not altogether challenging, experience. People have learned a lot about themselves, their families and their companies, but the vast majority have emerged stronger.
We worked with The Harris Poll to better understand American workers' sentiments and how working from home has impacted their views on work and productivity. Harris conducted an online survey from June 11 to 15, 2020. It includes responses from 2,026 adults in the United States ages 18 and older (including 745 employed Americans who are working from home because of COVID-19).
The results were equally surprising and enlightening, and they provide a road map for organizations as they emerge from the prolonged lockdown. A clear majority of those surveyed (70%) say they accomplish more working from home, thanks to fewer in-person meetings.
The pandemic has forced millions across the globe to work from home. Industries have emerged, and new applications help people and teams collaborate in new ways.
The world has experienced an incredible transformation in remote work and digital acceleration. In fact, it has happened at a faster pace in the last three months than it did during the previous three years, and the change is not over yet.
Here are some essential strategies to keep in mind as you utilize modern tech solutions going forward.
1. Make sure you have the right technology for your business.
For too long now, organizations have worked to implement technology, but the solutions were often the wrong ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that. Businesses no longer have the luxury of unnecessary solutions; every tool must have a purpose, and it must drive business.
Now that more than 6 in 10 Americans (61%) are working from home amid the pandemic, companies are quickly learning whether they have the right tools in place. More than three-quarters (76%) of Americans working from home amid the outbreak say they now use video conferencing more often.
The good news is that a majority of those workers (63%) say they can accomplish more during a video conference they attend from home than they do during an in-person meeting. With the necessary technology in place, a remote team be just as productive as co-located teams.
2. Collaborate more, meet less.
Perhaps the most eye-opening result of the survey is that three-quarters (75%) of respondents said that because they work from home, they now realize many in-person meetings they previously attended are unnecessary.
If you stop and think about it, this is probably not much of a surprise. Just as many businesses throw technology at a problem and expect it to solve the issue, many leaders hold a meeting when they don't know what else to do.
The pandemic's legacy will be how we interact with one another, which probably will not be in person anytime soon. People are understandably nervous about attending large in-person gatherings. More than half of the survey respondents (54%) said they would not be comfortable attending an in-person event or meeting this year. That trend is likely to continue into 2021.
Businesses cannot stand idly by; they have no choice but to adapt. In short, as a business leader, you must implement communication channels that allow your team to collaborate and ensure productivity.
3. Focus on the person.
If there is a heartening outcome of the forced remote work experiment, it's that many people have had an opportunity to reevaluate their work-life balance. Our survey found that 41% believe working from home has positively impacted their work-life balance, compared with 34% who feel it has had a negative impact.
Nearly half (44%) say it has had a positive impact on their personal development. Concurrently, more than half of respondents (59%) say working from home has positively impacted the time spent with their family.
Companies should lean into that, but it requires us to ask a simple question many have not fully considered: Why do so few companies allow their teams to work from the best place for them?
Too often, companies look at their teams as names on a spreadsheet or an employee roster, and they forget about the person.
As a company leader, you should look to build your team, but not just the team as a cohesive unit. Instead, focus on the individuals who make up the group. In doing so, you will see healthier people who will be empowered to achieve even more.
4. Assemble a strong, nimble team.
Before the pandemic, we conducted a survey that identified the home as the place where people accomplish the most. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems so obvious now.
Astonishingly, our research with The Harris Poll uncovered that only 8% worked from home prior to the pandemic. That is because many businesses were still operating as if it were 1980 rather than 2020. Perhaps that was a successful strategy for them, but those days are about as distant as a handshake or an in-person happy hour.
I previously cited a University of Chicago Booth School of Business survey where professors concluded that more than 1 in 3 jobs (34%) could be done from home. And that was before the pandemic forced so many to work remotely, which has further proven that productivity is not in an office; it's in your mindset.
The old ways no longer work. It is imperative for each business to pull together the right team; with the right group, you can accomplish any of your business objectives. Often, the team that is easiest to put in place is not the right team for the task at hand.
It is hard to say how the future will unfold, but it's interesting to contemplate. Many have tried to predict the road ahead, but all the planning and preparation in the world can't account for every possible scenario. That's why you need a nimble and agile team that can adapt to whatever challenges your business might face. You might need to continually rethink your processes and ways of working. Technology can strengthen and empower a team, but it doesn't make a team.