When we had high hopes for a bright new decade, none of us imagined that millions of workers around the world would trade their office cubicles for kitchen tables. It’s been an unprecedented year that’s prompted many sudden and unexpected transformations in the workplace.
We didn’t think we’d pivot completely to online business meetings or that we’d only discuss work projects by phone or online chat. We had no idea that trainings and events would turn 100% digital or that it’d be a year devoid of business travel.
Attitudes about how and where we work—and the practices covering how we get work done—changed overnight. Businesses had to adapt fast—and they did. These changes will likely stay with us beyond the pandemic.
Eighty-four percent of US companies say they’ll offer permanent remote work after the pandemic passes. Others plan to implement a hybrid arrangement of working partly at home and partly in the office. Having conducted what’s turned out to be a vast work-from-home experiment, businesses have learned that it works.
Here are five lessons the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about remote work:
1. Remote workers are productive
Without the distractions of a physical office, workers get more done. According to McKinsey, 41% of people working remotely say they’re more productive than they were in the office, and 28% say they’re just as productive.
Businesses are also seeing healthy work practices that may remain after COVID-19 departs. Fifty-three percent report being more trusting of their employees, 49% are offering more flexible work hours, and 38% have virtual teams working collaboratively across multiple locations and departments.
2. Cloud technology is essential in times of crisis
We’ve truly learned the importance of technology during COVID. In a Cisco study, more than half of respondents said they are now using technology that was available to them pre-pandemic but which they had ignored or rejected. Sixty-seven percent reported the pandemic accelerated their adoption of tools to take advantage of cloud-based communications, collaboration, and productivity.
Digital tools that let employees collaborate have become the new normal, and we’ll continue to rely on them after the pandemic has passed, especially video conferencing.
3. Social interactions enable collaboration
Working remotely has shown us the importance of social interaction. Sixty-four percent of study respondents report that not being able to socialize around the watercooler and in the lunchroom makes teamwork a challenge.
They report that, instead, they’re using digital tools for social video conference meetups (67%) to communicate on social chat channels( (54%) and to hold interactive competitions (36%).
4. Employees’ personal lives matter
Remote work during a pandemic has taught us it’s important to consider employees’ personal lives. Not everyone suddenly forced to work at home has a quiet, organized home office without distractions. Some have children at home doing remote schooling. Many partners or roommates are also working at home.
It’s a lot to handle, but managers can help by checking in regularly, often without a specific agenda, and asking how it’s going. Allow employees to adjust their work schedules to accommodate personal or family needs. Consider offering an extra PTO day for your employees to get some needed rest and relaxation.
Some employees work more hours at home than they did at the office—remind them to stop at the end of their workday and put the laptop away.
5. Importance of business agility
We’ve learned that companies need to be adaptive, flexible, and creative in an environment that changes quickly.
Companies have addressed employees’ needs by creating COVID-19 crisis management teams, changing office rules, and adapting or creating work-from-home policies. They’ve transitioned their suddenly remote office staff to virtual tools and made other changes as the situation evolves.
Preparing for the future
While we don’t know what the future holds, we know that business won’t return to normal. The pandemic disrupted our work lives in unprecedented ways, and businesses are planning for a future of work that looks vastly different than it did before COVID. – Read more
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