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The COVID-19 crisis has given us tools. Now, we need to learn how to use them

10 years of digitalization – in just three months. That pretty much sums up work-life at many companies during this COVID-19 period. But how do you capture the current experiences of employees working from home and convert them into lasting, positive changes? This article will give you actionable steps on how companies can adapt to remote work and drive connection and culture beyond Zoom.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down from one day to the other. Many countries across Europe, the United States, and the rest of the world went into lockdown. Consequently, many employees were forced to balance their work and private life from within the same area, from their home.

For those who had the opportunity to work from home, this new situation meant discovering a variety of new digital tools and learn how to use them to enable remote working. One thing is clear. Working from home is the new normal.

But COVID-19 has also made it very clear that we need to rethink our work culture. Today, a computer and a decent Wi-Fi connection go a long way, but because the current health crisis has forced many companies and their employees to digitally transform, a lot of people have realized how much you can accomplish working from home, and also what you cannot do.


New working requirements

New requirements will be placed on future workplaces, and flexibility is a key parameter. Employees have discovered how the benefits of not having to abide by the 9-5 work regime, actually make them happier but also more efficient employees.

The new normal workday should therefore not just be a brief encounter during this crisis but a catalyst for change to establish the new normal workday. A lot of these answers point towards how much extra time has been given when suddenly disruptions such as cubicle small talk and endless unproductive meetings vanish.

Try asking your employees if they miss the daily commute. My guess: no one misses that. As in no-one! These new conditions free up a lot of time and should be something management needs to take into consideration.


Change doesn’t happen overnight

Management should also be aware that their workforce in many cases cannot adapt overnight to a new normal working condition. Many companies haven’t established how to be social together in a virtual environment. The lack of community can become a problem long term if workers don’t allocate time to small, unproductive interactions that are part of a day at the office – because they can be hard to substitute.

People still feel the urge of wanting to go to the office, also for social reasons, but there are several solutions each individual workplace need to experiment with to find a size that fits their needs.

As an example, Netflix is still struggling to make remote work… well, work. According to CEO, Reed Hastings, work from home is harder.

You might not find a solution that fits your company on the first try, so hang in there and try different things to find the right solution.


Change management doesn’t start with limitations

There are no universal silver bullets to direct how companies should implement these new digital experiences. I would suggest that companies conduct a COVID-19 debrief where employees can share what hasn’t been working and what they want to take with them going forward.

Remember, you cannot communicate too much. Therefore, ensure that employees have the right settings where they feel they have a voice and a saying. One example is anonymous surveys that evaluate how the workplace as well as how the individual employee handles the circumstances during COVID-19.

Does everyone have access to what they need? Do they have all information they need? What is missing? What would they like to have more of going forward? These are important questions to ask because they provide specific insights into how to improve as a workplace.

The workforce is a treasure trove of knowledge on how to get the most out of them. Now is therefore the time for management who wants to take advantage of that knowledge and transform it into specific change. Proactivity and flexibility are the two main drivers.

This crisis has provided us with tools. Now, we need to learn how to use them. A good leader does not start with the limitations of their employees comes up with solutions that work for them. Let them test it. But if the employees would like to have recommendations and guidelines on how to perform the work, they should of course receive it. Make that a part of the strategic direction that you are flexible – it is also good for the bottom line.


 5 pieces of good advice

  • Flexibility: Employees should be shown trust and freedom to design how they work. Set clear expectations and goals. Accept that you won’t build perfect solutions on the first try. Try several solutions and accept that there is no one-size-fits-all. Different personalities require different solutions.
  • Working from home and setting up the home office: Make sure employees have the necessary equipment to recreate an office setting in their own homes. It could be perks like a fast internet connection, a green screen, or coffee.
  • Technology: Make sure you got the right IT infrastructure to support remote work. Ideally, employees should be able to log on remotely and retrieve whatever data they need without boundaries and delays. Make sure to choose a system that enables integration between your existing systems.
  • Communication: Set clear expectations on how teams and employees communicate. Some prefer late work hours, some prefer morning work hours. Others are working in completely different time zones. Asynchronous communication is one of the keys to efficient collaboration across different work habits.
  • Work culture: Identify what makes your work culture great. Ask employees to describe the good elements, elements that need improvement as well as the indispensable elements in their work-life experience.

Technology and digital infrastructure should also be adapted to best fit the new ways of working.


Start your transformation today

As you prepare for your new normal and realize that people can be as productive at home as they are at work, why not consider a long-term remote working plan?

Download this whitepaper to receive best-practice ideas on supporting processes, projects and administration of product information in a remote work reality.


About the author

Thomas Skogen

Thomas is an expert in Supply Chain and Manufacturing Optimization with more than 10 years of experience originating from Medical Device and High-Tech & Electronic Industries. He comes with a background as an Electronics engineer, complemented with a Master in Technology Management. Thomas has held positions in multinational corporations such as Nilfisk, heading the internal optimization program as well as the supply chain organization.

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