How the COVID-19 pandemic could affect the way we work after it passes
COVID-19 has changed the world at an unprecedented speed over the last few months. For businesses, change usually happens gradually or gets deferred, but the crisis has forced them to quickly adopt new technologies and systems. The question in people’s minds is how these changes will affect the way we work beyond the pandemic. Will we experience a new normal?
Organisations with established work from home or flexible working practices are now having to scale them up; those without established processes are having to quickly adjust to this new territory. Not only do companies need to make sure they provide the technological infrastructure and assets for their people to work remotely, but there are a number of social factors as well. Leaders need to be empowered to drive and support geographically dispersed teams, and companies need to find ways to maintain employee engagement and culture without being face to face. Employees, too, are facing new complications: while doing their regular jobs, they may also be trying to manage kids who are being homeschooled, negotiating shared living room workspaces with housemates, or dealing with distractions from siblings. With their personal and professional lives suddenly in the same space, employees have had to find ways to balance domestic demands and work deadlines.
Before the pandemic, the concept of flexible or remote working existed in pockets but was never the norm. However, we have seen the shift to remote working bring a renewed boost to cooperation and cohesion. People who were reluctant to adopt these changes have now adapted quickly, and are less likely to be averse to virtual interactions in future. We have seen tools such as Microsoft Teams used as the collaborative canvas for everything from business update meetings, networking events, and virtual social drinks or tea breaks. With more time and effort being invested, the quality of online events has rapidly evolved, such as Zoom conferences with breakout rooms. These events are more likely to challenge their traditional counterparts than in the past as they are often cheaper, easier to plan, and can reach a far wider audience.
During and shortly after the crisis, businesses are less likely to be thinking about long-term projects, so we might see an increase in shorter, agile projects for the digital business consulting industry. The focus is likely to be on rapidly redeploying resources for immediate needs, such as putting in tools to support remote working or switching to lower-cost alternatives. This redeployment is effective if it can be put in place within days or at most a few weeks. That could result in higher demand for ready-to-run, low-code/no-code tools that can deliver solutions fast, and agile delivery methodologies to quickly develop new applications for deployment.
Until the pandemic passes, many projects are on hold and many businesses have less work than usual. During this window, leadership teams will be considering what kind of improvements can be made that will be most useful, and agility, responsiveness and up-to-date information will be more valuable than ever. This could be the time when businesses upskill, adopt new tools, or reorganise to agile ways of working suited for delivering dynamic solutions in this unpredictable business environment.
While we undoubtedly hope for things to return to normal as soon as possible, we shouldn’t hurry to unlearn the habits and skills we have acquired during this crisis. Even if most workers are still in the office, some methods, meetings and events could stay virtual. We could see less face-to-face interaction, fewer business trips, less commuting and even smaller office spaces. Maintaining our capability and continuing to upskill on digital literacy would not only help prepare for these changes, but also offer flexibility to deal with unexpected events in the future.