Reflecting on the past year led me to put together this post about how I believe this incredibly challenging year has had an irreversible effect on the way the workforce will collaborate, innovate, and do business in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic emerged at the beginning of 2020 and led to new guidelines that affected the workforce around the globe. Countries around the world introduced policies to help contain infection rates of COVID-19, putting in place lockdowns that resulted in remote work becoming the new work reality.
This dramatic change also led to significant changes in our daily routines, our attempts to balance work and home, and how we view work.
In this blog, I will try to address what I believe are the core principles that can help us overcome these challenging times, put some balance and stability into our lives, and improve our organizations for the better.
Trust and Communication
This year, face-to-face meetings and coffee breaks with informal conversation were replaced by online meetings, often without the human interaction and intimacy that leads to building trust between individuals.
I believe that organizations need to maintain trust as their core value. This value is critical for building relationships across different units, geographies, and cultures and helps mitigate the impersonal nature of fully remote work.
Working from home created a lot of challenges for the organization's workforce. The lack of an environment that is as comfortable as our office environment and the blurred boundaries between personal and work-related activities made focusing on work difficult.
The key to being successful in this environment is the ability to set priorities and to be able to focus on tasks with clear objectives and a scope that is well-defined.
Therefore I believe that organizations that can reshape procedures and programs to fit the new reality and availability of their workforce while setting realistic and focused objectives will be able to overcome unstable and unpredicted reality.
The way a more-focused workforce can be achieved is by creating teams of smaller groups or task forces that can better communicate within remote work constraints. They should set realistic goals that are clear, detailed, and comprehensive and create deliverables that reduce dependencies on other activities and teams. Creating a work ecosystem that is tolerant and flexible and allows for individuals' work/life balance can also help with workforce productivity, even while workforce daily routines are constantly changing.
Innovation and Adaptation
Innovation plays an important role, now more than ever, in the ability of organizations to adapt quickly in a situation that has many limitations, challenges, and changes. Innovation is a state of mind that enables us to react quickly, be able to adapt to change, and overcome challenges.
Educational systems are a great example of how innovation plays a role in the ability of organizations to adapt and thrive during times of change.
Once COVID-19 guidelines were put in place and students around the world were moved to remote learning, teachers' roles changed overnight as their in-person classroom shifted to an online model.
The teachers needed to leverage online learning technologies, including new methods for communicating with students. Most important, they needed to leverage these virtual tools to be engaging for their students, as well as have their students feel connected to them, despite not being in the same physical space.
Figure: UNESCO data on number of learners worldwide affected by school closures as a result of COVID-19
The figure illustrates the massive change in the number of students who were learning online over the past 10 months. Teachers and students needed to innovate and adapt quickly to new ways of teaching, learning, and communicating.The decrease of remote learners over time reflects the fact that some schools reopened to in-person learning, or hybrid learning, but there are still significant numbers of students being taught online today.
Innovation is a state of mind, and it should be cultivated as part of building organizational culture, as should out-of-the-box thinking and a growth mindset. Open-minded attitudes with adoption and adaptation principals can help generate better reactions to a rapidly changing reality.
Trust, communication, and focus, as well as the abilities to innovate and adapt, were all important prior to COVID-19. However, this past year those core principles became necessary for an organization's ability to survive and remain relevant. Furthermore, those same principals will remain critical to success in the foreseeable future.
The technology sector has always played a significant role in changing the way we connect, communicate, and live through the innovations and inventions it has introduced over the years. Technology companies will continue to be a leading force in driving innovation and helping organizations adapt in the future.