COVID-19 struck fast and hard. And most of us had to hit the ground running to accommodate our attitudes and habits as we started working from home. Sharat Sharan, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of ON24 described it as a tsunami, “While we could see it coming, once it hit, the pandemic changed business overnight. And when a crisis like this happens, the pace of business is totally different. Weeks start to feel like months, and outcomes are impossible to predict.”
Under these conditions, business leaders had to consider more personal issues than ever to accommodate parents who are homeschooling and providing the tech equipment for teleworking. As a result of these accommodations, attitudes and habits have changed, and things will never be the same. Experts predict we won’t go back to “normal.” We will go back to “a new normal,” and that’s not all bad, according to many sources who cite the unexpected benefits of WFH. But what will that look like?
The Breakdown Of Emotional Barriers
Embedded in the hardships of the lockdown are silver linings that have sensitized business leaders and employees that can be used for good in the new work world order. The office-to-home transitions have caused workers to break down emotional barriers, giving both colleagues and clients a true lens into who people become once they leave the office—a side many colleagues never shared previously. Meena Krenek, Principal and Interior Design Director at global architecture and design firm Perkins and Will in Los Angeles says we’re sharing more of our personal lives with others. While not wearing super corporate attire or makeup, often while simultaneously soothing a fussy child, we’re learning new ways of social engagement with coworkers and clients that we can take back to humanize our work environments:
“The landscape of the virtual calls entailed unique experiences from coworkers’ children participating in our conversations, from cats walking across keyboards as clients were talking, to getting a virtual tour of their new workspace at home . . . I believe we are sharing different sides of ourselves. Our perception of each other seems more genuine, which makes us feel much more connected and is allowing us to be more comfortably vulnerable. We are listening harder on thee video calls and developing greater value for empathy. We need to continue to inspire, provide mental safety and support feelings of fulfillment.”
As we transition back to our offices, Cara Pelletier, Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging at Ultimate Software believes many of the intimate adaptions we made to remote working can be used to reshape a more humane workplace:
“The hope is that as our workforce evolves as a result of the crisis, we bring more empathy to our everyday connections. If things go back to normal for most people, we must lean on our WFH experience to remember that adaptations gave us equal access to participation and productivity. Our eventual transition back to the office presents an opportunity for us to better support one another, anticipate the needs of our teams, and pave the way for a more empathetic and human workplace.”
Virtual Onboarding And Rise In Teleworking
Scheduling platform Doodle compared meetings that took place between February 1 and March 1, 2020 to unpack just how much virtual meeting habits have changed as a result of the Coronavirus. In March, Doodle reported a 42% increase in the number of virtual meetings—inclusive of both Group meetings and 1:1 meetings—created by Doodle premium users compared to the same period in February. In March, a total of 1,309,165 minutes of meetings were booked on Doodle. And at least 11% of those minutes were spent in virtual meetings in March.
Studies are predicting an increase in remote working as part of the “new normal.” A survey conducted by Amdocs queried 2,000 consumers regarding their opinions on future 5G experiences (the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data networks) and found that 35% of respondents believe the technology will lead to better video conference options, 32% anticipate better video training and development opportunities, and 61% said 5G will create more opportunities to work remotely with ubiquitous success. According to Anthony Goonetilleke, Group President, Media, Network and Technology at Amdocs, the trend of remote work continues to grow at a rapid pace and will play a critical role in supporting next-generation work forces by breaking down barriers between the physical and virtual workplaces.
Leadership And Empathy From Afar
Traditionally, business leaders have argued against the concept of WFH due to productivity concerns and tactical problems that limit a supervisor’s ability to observe and coach employees. According to Josh Feast, CEO and Co-founder of the software company,Cogito Corporation, supervisors are forced to find innovative ways to connect with and manage workers from afar. To ensure everyone feels fully supported – emotionally – supervisors must set up alternate methods of oversight. Fortunately, technology is now more human-aware and can aid us in these efforts to remain connected and lead with empathy.”
Corporate heads are speaking out more about their concerns for employee mental health as it relates to stress and anxiety, which is a shift for many business leaders. Joe Lallouz, CEO and Co-founder of technology platform Bison Trails, points out that people aren’t just choosing to work from home. They have to work remotely because of the global health crisis. And if you’re going to reduce people’s stress and anxiety about a shift in the way they work, it’s important to try to make them feel more comfortable, and a little empathy goes a long way.
And ON24’s corporate head Sharan told me that black swan events like COVID-19 are the ultimate trials of leadership and business sustainability, suggesting that leaders find outlets to stay calm because your personal health and energy are passed down to your team: “After the great recession, I started meditating and now begin every day with 12 minutes of meditation. That routine has helped me stay mindful, pragmatic and put out positive energy. In the midst of a crisis, you need to personally embody the attitude that you want your team and your own business to demonstrate.”
Sources : https://www.forbes.com/
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