In a post-COVID-19 society, remote work expected to be the 'new norm'
Roughly three weeks ago those in the UC industry could have told the rest of the world, that people who could work from home would likely transition to that way of working because of the Coronavirus. Most companies were not prepared for the latest life-altering reality, leading many to hastily enact remote-work policies to protect employees from the potential wide-spread of the virus, otherwise known as COVID-19.
As a result of being ill-prepared for such an incident, companies have had to reassess what the future of work might look like, a topic Cisco felt was so significant, the collaboration company recently hosted a virtual chat with industry analysts, Zeus Kerravala, Dave Michels, and Cisco Collaboration CMO, Aruna Ravichandra, to consider what work might look like in a post-COVID-19 world.
Kerravala, an analyst who has spent the better half of a decade working from home, said he did have to adjust to platforms like Webex being the primary way he collaborates, with in-person meetings no longer an option. He noted that the spring tech conference season has been forever reshaped, adding many conferences are digital, canceled, or postponed, hoping for an eventual reduction in the number of recorded cases.
“The amount of change and disruption that’s happened over the past few weeks is significant”
This is according to Michels, who further shared, it is the disruption that’s led him to consider how those who have never worked remotely will adjust to active communications. Reaching out, following up, accommodating different time-zones, and no longer relying on lunchroom conversations. “Employers need to set aside time to mimic water cooler talks, these things are crucial because people need social interaction, and collaboration tools can help employees be more productive and social,” he noted.
Ravichandra, Cisco’s Head of Collab believes video adaption is increasing because people crave social interaction in the workplace, and Michels said we’ve seen tremendous growth in collaboration, particularly in the huddle room space for the past few years, noting Coronavirus has merely elevated this.
None of the conversations’ participants think flying will totally flatline once global travel restrictions lift, but do caution, now that people have a taste of what is possible from home, audio calls might get replaced with video calls. Flights are likely to resume, but business, as usual, may never be the same. “Nobody wants to be in an office, and this will be a part of a larger cultural transformation where people are more comfortable using video to meet to get a glimpse into coworkers’ lives,” said Michels.
He even predicts, the idea of the dedicated cubes and desks will not be ‘a popular option’ in the near future, sharing, ‘those days are certainly numbered.’ Ravichandra said Cisco has seen a spike in video traffic, and it’s a rather immense one:
“People are just more comfortable, which is the reason we’ve seen an uptick in video meeting minutes, people crave personalization, and that shows in our metrics, up 166 percent in the past two weeks,” adding, “Coronavirus has forced people to reassess how simple the technology is, and businesses will reap the fringe benefits.”
Because now we have a viable alternative to going to the office, and people realize it, anyone can access collaboration software which is often cloud-based and affordable. Not to mention low-cost equipment, whiteboard technology and the fact that the technology is more intuitive than it used to be. So far, the true impacts of COVID-19 have yet to be felt or seen, and the concept of the future ‘norm’ is not something we can predict. “It will depend on what ‘normal’ is as we emerge from COVID-19, Michels added.
What is almost certain, managers will have to form new styles of management given the circumstances. And companies should think more about transparency. Employees need reassurance that they can take care of issues with their children, take frequent breaks. Furthermore, companies should provide protocol so employees understand what is acceptable and what is not.
This is especially true for those who have never worked from home. And companies can even take it a step further by assisting with setting up a home office, i.e. logistics, lighting, equipment, etc. More than anything, there is a slight learning curve, the trio contends. And this is true, but nothing too monumental when compared to obstacles faced in everyday office settings that lead to unproductive workdays and wasted time.
“We need to embrace the way things can be, make a schedule, get dressed for work, this is how you’ll have a speedier transition”
Michels said, with Kerravala interjecting, “And there is no right or wrong, it just depends on the organization or person.” There are signs everywhere that remote work has not reached its fullest potential. Shopify gave each of its employees $1,000 to furnish a home office, meaning the eCommerce company could be in it for the long haul.
With happier employees, more balanced lives, and some challenges along the way, remote work is the safest and most viable option moving forward and the companies along with individuals who manage to persuade companies to put in place remote-work policies will probably see a return on investment when it comes to their quality of life.
It is worth noting, only one in four U.S. workers hold a position where they can work from home, according to the American Time Use Survey produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey, last conducted in 2017-18, asked workers from the age of 15-years-old and over: Does your job let you work from home? A mere 28 percent responded ‘yes.’
Although this number is likely elevated today, not everyone enjoys the luxury of working from home because their jobs do not center around a computer. For the millions who cannot work from home around the globe, there is a bigger issue of wide-spread unemployment, posing a major threat to the world economy. As such, governments will have to step up to make sure the quality of life around the world is not too badly impacted by the pandemic.