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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Corporate landscape is like nothing that has come before it. In fact, we’ve all got a little more used to hearing the word ‘unprecedented’ in recent weeks. What the Corporate community is working through right now is truly extraordinary
The same is true of so many of the foundations of society, culture and the very fabric of daily life. Events that were unimaginable just a handful of months ago are now dominating day-to-day life.
With all that in mind, Whitespace hosted its first virtual Corporate innovation Community meetup which featured a guest host and panel looking at how those in the Corporate world can adapt and thrive at a time when the new normal is nothing like any normal we could ever have imagined.
Numerous topics were discussed, from remote working and collaboration to best practice and maintaining momentum. Below you’ll find all the key takeaways from that panel.
The panel’s insights were brilliantly encouraging and firmly realistic in equal measure, and together they reminded us that it is human, soft skills that might be the most powerful tools we have to move through this most overwhelming of times.
We now might all have something to learn about self-discipline, isolation and motivation. And the separation of work and the person has been eroded tremendously. It is not impossible that an important virtual meeting might be intruded upon by an over-enthusiastic toddler. Just weeks ago, that might have been a point of deep embarrassment.
That brings us to two leading considerations when adjusting to remote professionalism; namely empathy and flexibility.
Empathy in the current situation isn’t just about being kind to your employees – though that matters too. The reality is that your colleagues might not always be able to guarantee traditional working hours, or may have to be working in the same room where their children attempt to focus on their education. Empathising with colleague’s distinct situations, and embracing flexibility are significant tools in keeping business processes moving. That may sound a little woolly, but as we’ll see, a human-centric approach might be key in the coming weeks or months.
Empathy in this context can be considered a matter of understanding one’s own emotions, and the emotional response of others. To the current situation. Existing and long-standing employee needs that were part of life before the pandemic still exist, but so do to new levels of fear, anxiety, tiredness and distraction. We are all still reacting and responding to recent events. To a degree, the famed – if often misunderstood –
Kubler-Ross model of grief can provide a meaningful guide to understanding the shift many of us may be going through. Just remember that the model presents a non-linear, unpredictable process that is not universally applicable in a single way.
Leaders in particular also need to remember their own wellbeing and capacity to give answers in this time of wild uncertainty. It is not possible to provide all – or even many – of the answers to questions staff will have, and it is much harder to offer the reassurance or encouragement one might traditionally give by a coffee station or during a break. Something of a warning can also offer encouragement and peace of mind: none of us are true experts here, and nobody will get everything right.
For all the reasons mentioned above, now self-discipline is more crucial than ever. Simply put, at home and in isolation, with family and other parts of life going on in earshot, it can be hard to be focussed.
There are some fundamental considerations, certainly. Being strict with timing, making clear divisions between work and downtime, remembering to take breaks and finding a good, comfortable, well-lit working space are all key. It might be tempting to dive straight into work, sitting on the end of your bed with a laptop. But you’ll be more productive overall if you invest a little time in establishing a working space that works for you.
Equally, it is worth frequently reminding yourself that managing your own physical, emotional, and even spiritual health is valuable here. Do not underestimate the value of a (socially distant and appropriate) walk, or time in the garden, if you are lucky enough to have one. It is inevitable that your day may be intruded upon by the arrival of important personal mail or a call from a service provider. Be realistic and schedule a time to allow for such intrusions.
And don’t be afraid to consider the opportunity to adjust your day to better suit your personal style.
And if you are a leader, give serious consideration to allowing and enabling such freedoms. Just remember – self-discipline remains essential, even to the non-traditional working day.
Ultimately, this is about the idea that work should be about output, not hours invested. Ironically, timekeeping remains important. But think about remote working from the perspective of getting the job done; not the hours you keep.
We are privileged, of course, to live in a time when the likes of Zoom, Slack, Skype, Whatsapp, Hangouts and many more options exist, and are so widely available and commonly understood. So many of us are already well-versed in joining meetings through such tools. Now we are just having to do a few more – including several with friends or family, be that a blessing or a curse.
Many are understandably nervous about security and reliability, and while nothing is certain when the global communications infrastructure is under strain, it is worth remembering that current events offer a significant opportunity for such platforms. Now is a time for them to assert their potential, meaning substantial effort is being put into bolstering security and capacity. Equally, it is certainly worth liaising with your internal technical and technology teams with regard to access to stored assets and the network or VPN of the wider Corporation. Providing a dispersed workforce with as much remote access as securely possible will be defining in letting your Corporation or department continue with as much normality as possible.
Equally, while wildly ambitious virtual meetings are clearly possible through tools like Zoom, consider ways to simplify calls, starting with breaking down their duration. A three-hour call might be tempting, in an effort to get several tasks done with a single virtual meeting. But it may be much more productive broken down into half-hour chunks, or by having separate meetings for separate groups. In other words, treat it just like a real meeting.
It is also worth exploring less traditional tools, such as the idea management and incubation platform Wazoku, or the collaborative virtual wipe board solution Miro. Many other options exist, so do your research. There are myriad tools that serve as alternatives or complements to conventional meeting and communication platforms.
The well-used idiom ‘it’s a marathon; not a race’ is particularly fitting here. The ongoing pandemic is also a marathon in which we do not know the duration or the terms of crossing the finish line. Taking time to be strategic and doing research into adjusting business practices might not get you out of the blocks with blistering pace, but it may see you actually make it over the finish line with your business or projects in good health.
It is even close to inevitable that normal levels of pace and efficiency will be hard to reach present. The lack of being able to stop by a colleague’s desk to ask a question might sound like a trivial loss, but that ability to meet face-to-face in your own office is vital to accelerating the machinations of business. That’s not to say such a downturn in pace is certain, but it is likely enough to mean serious consideration is worthwhile.
Again, a mindset of kindness, empathy, patience and acceptance that the best-laid plans may shift and change at this time can also lubricate the engine of momentum. People will have different mindsets at different times – as we all do through this experience – and recognising that may avoid establishing unworkable deadlines or tasks. It is key to remember – as much as we try to be empathetic – that we simply may not know the details.