How Can IT Organizations Rise to the Occasion in the New World of Remote Work?

Apr 16, 2020, 13:55 PM by qaisar khalifa
Adapting to the new world of remote work requires organizations to prioritize digital collaboration

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.

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.”

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. 

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.

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.

We’ll all be reading many success stories, and probably a few less successful stories about the performance of key collaboration tools.

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?

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.

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.

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:

And, as one participant noted, don’t forget to pace yourself. And stay safe!


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