With each day, week or month that passes more and more of us are chomping at the bit for the return of normalcy related to our work among other aspects of our lives. Being able to go to our offices, having children back in a real classroom, being able to openly socialize and in general, live the life we know and like is the vision of which many dream. This vision is the one thing that helps us endure the way we have been forced to live. Give me back the ‘Old Normal” and I can happily return to the life I now realize I like more than ever.
But maybe … just maybe … this is a ‘not so fast’ situation. We have been living in the current ‘new normal’ for some 8+ months. There appears to be a good likelihood that there are at least the same number of months ahead before there is a protective treatment. At last we will be able to return to a way of life using all the methods and procedures that made up our lives pre-COVID, Sounds great
huh? And yet not very realistic for whereas businesses have had to alter the ways in which they conducted business, employees have had to adapt to them and many months later we have begun settling in somewhat successfully … not by our choices but rather by necessity.
What are the emerging new realities?
The realities that are emerging include …
- Businesses have come to realize that many of the positions and jobs held in the organization do not have to be carried out in the office. Rather and as long as many have access to all of the tools that enable them to function to the fullest, business is happening and successfully so.
- Employees have come to realize that as long as they have settled into the home-based routine and created the spacetherein to enable them to be productive in ways they had been at their office desk, they can now choose to live in an area that is not governed by proximity to the workplace and that has provided some attractive alternatives in terms of locale and financial impact.
- As a result of how all in the company are learning how to be effective in their work outside of the physical location of the business, the organization is moving to reducing the amount of space they have and therefore reducing their costs as a benefit.
- Companies have been forced and have learned to value the cutting through of various old methods and practices that slowed down the progress they desired and actually achieved. Think lengthy meetings or the number of meetings that used to be routine.
What Does Normal of the Future Look Like?
With this being the case today what can we expect the next ‘normal’ will be like and the requirements that might impose on organizations and those who work within them? As more and more organizations settle into the reality of what is happening today and buy into the need of employees working remotely in the future, they are creating plans for their businesses once COVID-19 is under some effective treatment control. Here are changes we can anticipate that will, in fact, create the ‘normal’ of tomorrow:
- Companies are going to invest in providing their home-based team with the tools and access that will enable all to function at the highest possible level of productivity. Some of this has begun given the COVID realities that created home-based work as the norm. Think the likes of … ~Policy and procedure manuals ~ Presentation templates and supplies ~ Mail supplies and stationery ~ Software programs ~ Corporate credit card
- Companies are beginning to provide furniture and equipment that mimics what one would have at the office to maximize functionality and comfort. This tremendously improves the many forced to work at home in created make-shift working areas and furniture needed to function (think dining room tables),
- Firms are and will need to provide company-owned computers that provide necessary access where needed as we look to the future. This, rather than requiring employees to use their own personal equipment. Today and for the past many months home-based workers have often used their own personal computers which creates both an inconvenience and security concern from both vantage points. In creating the ‘next’ new normal, they are making certain that the home-based team has the proper bandwidth and internet connectivity to maximize their productive efficiency.
- Organizations are establishing productivity standards by which all remote employees will be expected to follow.In doing so, structure will be provided that can, actually, contribute to greater individual and collective success. What type of daily communication is needed? What are the time parameters for responding to emails? What kind of end-of-day report would be beneficial to the leaders that keep them up to date on where projects and progress remains?
- Establishing organized and specific times and days of team interaction. This acknowledges that being a remote-based organization eliminates the ease and convenience of being able to converse with others on a happenstance or when needed basis. Therefore, creating specific days and times to provide updates to others who need to know is and will be key. It also affords the opportunity to seek needed input from others that can advance the success of the efforts being made.
- Communicate with remote staff frequently. What issues or challenges are they experiencing? What are the bottlenecks they have encountered and their suggestions as to what could remove then? What is their next step for further development and how the organization can facilitate that happening?
- Encourage team members to provide their ideas for improvement. Although a home-based employee is not new, today’s situation has taken this to an unprecedented level and that has demanded the creation of new norms and methods. The change will be an evolution of ideas the trial and error that will continue to improve results.
As we have all experienced for much of 2020, change is a challenge and although it can and does cause disruption of what we accepted as normal, we have had no choice but to adapt. And now, as organizations have become somewhat used to doing their business in this way, they and their teams are seeing the opportunities that this has created. Previously this would have been considered unthinkable and unrealistic. Now that they have become today’s norm, many are seeing the wisdom that has been created as we all move forward. Getting to work from home? Getting to live in an area that we choose irrespective of where our organization is located? Having more choice and having greater balance in our life? Like I said … it’s not all bad and on the way to making it even better. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. And so we are challenged!