Nov 25, 2020
Written by Nathan Johnston, Chief Technology Officer
Nearly eight months ago, most of the workforce that could, went to a remote work environment. Organizations scrambled to get technology solutions in place. For the most part, technology solutions like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and many others rose to meet the technical challenges that this sudden influx of users created. IT organizations rushed to provide the tools to their employees and extend the corporate perimeter to the home office. When it all finally came together, there was a sense that this was working, that business can continue, that we could maintain productivity through this challenging time.
As the months went by, organizations realized that technology solutions were not the only things that required attention to maintain productivity and retain the connections that an in-person office environment provided. Some organizations transitioned smoothly to the new remote climate, while others struggled. Once it became apparent that this would not be “just a few months,” most organizations realized that changes to process and culture were required to maintain this indefinitely and potentially permanently. Even when vaccines are available, and the threat of the pandemic has faded, the reality of remote work for many office occupations will remain into the future.
Technology solutions are part of the picture, but any technology solution is only as good as its adoption by the business users that need to get their jobs done every day. Complex workflows developed utilizing tools like Microsoft Power Automate and Power Apps can be powerful, but only if they are adopted in the context of an accepted process, training, and user acceptance. If the human elements are not adequately addressed, users may fall into less productive and potentially disruptive patterns as they become frustrated with a poorly designed tool. In some cases, a more straightforward approach may be better. It will be easier to change as the users provide their feedback and new iterations of the technology tools can be developed incrementally.
As we move through this time, assess your user’s work environments and invest in the equipment and infrastructure they need at home. Early in the pandemic, it was probably ok, to do Teams calls sitting on the edge of your bed, but as the weeks and months wear on, the standard corporate issue laptop may not be enough to maintain productivity. Invest in standing desks, larger monitors, better webcams, and audio equipment. Ask your employees what can be done to make them more comfortable and productive. Build trust with your employees by understanding their needs and accommodating their need for a productive working environment.
We must do many things to enable our remote workforce, but one of the most challenging is to maintain the sense of connection we form in an office environment. Create opportunities for a shared exchange of ideas outside the structure of formal Teams calls with set agendas. Create open mic time for anyone to address concerns, ideas, or even jokes and cookie recipes. Open informal channels for people to communicate outside of the usual corporate channels for your employees to discuss shared interests, video games, or frustrations with the snowblower. Create online virtual events to get the team together without a business structure to build team connections and a sense of belonging.
No matter how we look at it, remote workplaces will be with us for the foreseeable future. Organizations must learn to adapt and change, leave some traditions behind, and invent new ones to adapt to this period of technological and cultural change.