The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of remote work as organizations throughout the United States abruptly had to close workplaces. Over a matter of days and weeks, organizations scrambled to accommodate millions of workers trying to connect and collaborate fulltime over remote connections.
The ability to communicate with remote sites, customers, partners, and suppliers is often taken for granted until interrupted.
Participants in a recent IDG TechTalk Twitter chat largely agreed that remote work platforms have proved crucial. But they’re adamant that leaders need to act on the lessons to be learned from this crisis, particularly in making digital collaboration less of a slogan and more of a reality.
Indeed, is not just plug-and-play there is an engineering part that needs to be adjusted to the needs of the organization and menaces of the cyberworld itself #IDGTECHTalk— marthacisneros (@marthacisneros) March 26, 2020
What were you doing when the…?
Major incidents inevitably create vivid, lifetime memories of what we were doing when, for example, the lights went out in New York City, a prominent government leader or celebrity died, New Orleans was ravaged in the wake of a hurricane, and so forth. Many IT leaders will undoubtedly remember what they were doing when they realized they had to remotely support not just part of a workforce, but perhaps most.
The new normal?
This sudden “before” and “after” scenario with regard to remote work undoubtedly has thrust many IT leaders into the forefront as organizations assess how they are responding and what comes next. IDG’s Clare Brown urged chat participants to “shift the mindset that this is ‘temporary’ — with schools closed for the rest of the year and other services on mandatory shut down, organizations should consider this a new normal and put their resources into making remote work seamless and effective.”
Understand how these "temporary" changes will ultimately affect your workforce and IT resources. There will be a large portion of tech-enabled workers that never return to traditional office full-time M-F 9-5. Plan for the future. #IDGTechTalk #remotework— Jason James (@itlinchpin) March 26, 2020
Steve (and one of my dogs) here.— Steven M. Prentice (@StevenPrentice) March 26, 2020
A1. I would suggest they establish protocols around which technologies to use, especially with regard to security since people are using home-based tech to connect. #IDGTechTalk
Defining business resiliency
Business resiliency may have been an abstract concept for many planners that have never been subject to serious disruption. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to bring disaster recovery and business continuity to the forefront of IT and corporate planning for years to come.
No organization planned for this kind of sudden upheaval. Business continuity plans that listed "pandemic" were just a line item for an audit. IT Leaders must take the plans they have and update to best fit their workforce. The key is to work quickly and be flexible. #IDGTechtalk— Jason James (@itlinchpin) March 26, 2020
I wonder how many continuity plans involved a quarantine, or were more about outages, power failures, fires etc. This isn't about rebuilding, as it is enabling greater reach. This is infrastructure issue - and being agile enough to respond quickly #IDGtechtalk— Donna Lambertucci (@DonnaLambertucc) March 26, 2020
Back to the drawing board?
When the pandemic wanes, businesses will have to review how they responded and what cracks were exposed in their business continuity plans. IT leaders must find the resources to immediately shore up any glaring holes and rewrite their rule books for the future. #IDGTechTalk asked participants to weigh in on how to approach the upheaval.
A2: How about a "fail gracefully" approach? We will likely see more problems emerge. Nobody is perfectly positioned for this.#IDGTechTalk— Brent Kirkpatrick (@DrBKirkpatrick) March 26, 2020
What we are now seeing is what has been talked about at every tech conference for last 3 yrs a model that many predicted would take till 2025 to implement is being implemented now from telehealth to complete Gig workforce & full automation 🌐🤔 #IDGTechTalk— BrainBlender🤔🌐 (@BrainBlenderTec) March 26, 2020
A5. Businesses are finding out that they are not equipped to have their entire workforce working from home. Now it's giving them an idea of what they need in place should a situation like this happen again. This should make folks more proactive, rather than reactive. #IDGTechTalk https://t.co/0WZkwHPGqM— The Governance Guru (@GovernanceGuru) March 26, 2020
It’s been almost 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attack, which greatly elevated the concept of business resiliency. We’re all more digitally capable, and digitally dependent, now. The pandemic is a different type of crisis, with shutdowns imposed by government to try and limit (“flatten the curve”) a catastrophic impact on the U.S. healthcare system. Still, it’s worth pondering whether the current crisis demonstrates that lessons learned from 9/11 have faded, and business resiliency investments have since been overtaken by other priorities.
There’s little doubt we’ll see renewed study of the impact of the remote workforce in a time of crisis. Undoubtedly IT has learned, and in the coming months will continue to learn, much about the performance of its networks and the tools it has deployed for workforce collaboration.
Certainly, much effort will be expended on trying to game out scenarios for unknown disasters of the future.
The biggest lesson learned - you don't know what tomorrow will bring. Be as flexible as possible and understand that things will come along that drastically affect your biz - both in #IT and people-wise. Plan for that and don't be rigid... #IDGTECHtalk— Jack Gold (@jckgld) March 26, 2020
A4) Scaling up remote access and chat/collaboration tools top my list of lessons. Content management gaps are also going to rear their ugly head for some organizations and offer lessons (not everybody may take heed the content management lessons though). The #IDGTECHtalk— Will Kelly (@willkelly) March 26, 2020
We’ll all be reading many success stories, and probably a few less successful stories about the performance of key collaboration tools.
A1. It's a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of conversational tools like Slack that allow for the same types of casual conversation as you would have in the office. Video is great for meetings but "chat" is best for "chat." #IDGTechTalk— Steven M. Prentice (@StevenPrentice) March 26, 2020
Are we finally ready for remote work for all?
Business has been making progress toward fostering a more flexible workspace. According to the International Workplace Group 2019 Global Workplace Study, 50% of employees globally work outside of their main office for 2.5 days a week or more and 74% of Americans consider flexible working to be the norm. That type of environment is increasingly crucial to attract and retain talent and has proven to increase productivity and help businesses better manage risk. Will the pandemic provide the spark to make remote work as much the norm?
A1 - From what we've heard from IT leaders, it's about having strong organization -- what collaboration tools are best? Should you have a remote team leader who reports to the CIO? Create a co-ordinated plan for addressing issues. #idgtechtalk— CIO.com (@CIOonline) March 26, 2020
I agree also. The issues, limitations and opportunities around remote working will be surfaced now and well tested. Once the dust has settled, but before it becomes the new norm, it's ideal time to consider long term solutions. https://t.co/RMDMlTzFE5— Rob Vaughan (@rvukit) March 26, 2020
Leaders to the front of the line!
The virus presumably has a limited lifespan, but its lessons should live on and provide IT leaders with ample evidence to boost remote work as businesses prepare to resume normal activities. The lockdowns and shelter-in-place advisories crimped the movement of workers, but it’s just as likely to shine a spotlight on leaders to illustrate those who stepped up in a crisis, and those who struggled.
This crisis will reveal and create leaders within organizations. Forget their current title. Those that step up to keep operations going, comfort their coworkers, and deliver results in spite of incredible uncertainty will our future leaders. #IDGTechTalk— Jason James (@itlinchpin) March 26, 2020
A4: Be prepared to pivot — and pivot dramatically. Don’t try to fit your old tactics into your new normal. Trust that your employees can handle change. Lead but don’t micromanage. #idgtechtalk— Clare Brown (@ClareBrownIDG) March 26, 2020
Undoubtedly many of today’s leaders will have to adjust their thinking about remote work.
Managers must learn to trust in their remote workers. But they need the tools to keep on top of productivity and customer service to ensure that remote work furthers the goals of the organization.
Thinking about #Collaboration tools is not enough. You need to focus on the full remote worker user experience. Without this #UX focus, #WFH can be a major productivity disaster. And if your #UX is already good, you're most of the way there to #remoteWork #IDGTechTalk— Jack Gold (@jckgld) March 26, 2020
At the same time, managers have to learn new skills in supervising the remote workforce, learning how to communicate and how to mentor from afar. Collaboration platforms will get us part of the way there, but the human element is still crucial. Speaking of that human element, let’s not forget to provide a pat on the back of those who kept us remotely working:
If you were able to do your job remotely during this crisis, then thank a member of your IT Team. The fact a large portion of our economy can do their job from makeshift home offices is due to the hard work of so many IT Teams. Thank you! #IDGTechTalk pic.twitter.com/uHn2fpuJ7P— Jason James (@itlinchpin) March 26, 2020
And, as one participant noted, don’t forget to pace yourself. And stay safe!
Final post on the thread - take a breath while in #remotework. My experience is pace ramped UP during #coronavirus. Remind yourself to take a breath. Without offices, without borders, without commutes, we work hard so need breaks to keep pace high. #IDGTechTalk— Wayne Anderson (@DigitalSecArch) March 26, 2020