As world leaders grapple to provide the best advice and put efficient measures in place to contain and control the impact of the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of workers around the globe have been displaced. With companies, cities and entire countries on lockdown, many find themselves unable to continue working.
The more fortunate of us are able to work remotely, ensuring some continuity for organizations and individuals and contributing to overall productivity. We are lucky that the modern workplace, in many industries, can be anyplace one chooses to work, rather than a centralized office where everyone must convene.
Forcing the Pace of Remote Working
Remote work is not a new phenomenon. For a number of years, technological developments have been making it more possible, and even preferable, unknowingly preparing us for this challenge. A recent survey by LinkedIn found that 82% of working professionals would like to work from home for at least one day per week, while 62% of organizations worldwide had a flexible workspace policy as of a 2019 International Workplace Group survey. The number of people now working from home could act as a catalyst for accelerated change, shifting the way we think about “going” to work.
Alongside this shift, we could reasonably expect to see a cultural change that reduces presenteeism at work. The virality and difficult-to-detect nature of the coronavirus has meant that even people exhibiting mild symptoms have been advised to stay at home — and many chose to work from home even before this advice became official. When we emerge from this pandemic, will we think differently about entering the workplace with an infectious illness? After all, if working from home is possible, and doing so would limit others’ suffering, no matter how serious, wouldn’t it be better to stay indoors?
Of course, much of this change will depend on how far along an organization is in its own digital journey. In order to enable remote work that provides businesses and teams with all of the same benefits as the usual working environment, organizations must invest in the proper infrastructure. Fortunately, as businesses become more technically-minded, the work environment becomes easier to emulate remotely.
Why Use a Centralized Communications Hub?
What is more difficult to replicate away from the office is company culture. Shared communications tools are vital, particularly in a situation where employees did not expect to be working from home and may be isolated for a long period. Leaders and teams must use video, chat and instant messenger tools to stay connected, provide learning opportunities and share information when physical proximity is not possible.
As important as having the right technology is knowing how, when and why to use them. Organizations should use the hub itself to show employees how to use it, encouraging regular engagement. It should be intuitive; Netflix and Google have taught employees what is possible in their personal lives, and it is this experience that they want and expect from the technology platforms provided by their employers.
Leaders can also use a centralized hub to communicate the expectations and etiquette of working from home. From tips on productivity to how to protect mental health, organizations can use the hub to share knowledge and engage employees remotely. Helping employees develop the skills and attitudes to work autonomously is a must, and it’s easier to do with a centralized hub.
Remote Work: The New Normal?
What will the world of work look like once the peak of this pandemic has passed? While many people will return to the traditional workplace, others may choose to change the amount of time they spend at the office, particularly as reports of cleaner air and water continue to pile in, demonstrating the effect that limited travel can have upon the environment.
Face-to-face experiences will regain their place at work once normality resumes; the networking opportunities and immersive elements of in-person learning and communications are an essential part of modern work. But the multi-channel learning and communications that we have seen developing over the past few years may become the new normal at a much faster pace. The modern workplace is mobile and remote, and it is ready for this challenge. It is up to organizations to adapt.