Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Navigating the new workplace landscape, created by COVID-19, is one of the toughest challenges most of us have (and will) ever face. While each individual’s situation is unique, the constant looming uncertainty is something that weighs heavily on us all. There is fear in the market, spending is down, some debt markets are frozen, investors are hoarding cash, and businesses are focusing on protecting established revenue streams (rather than growing new ones). We all worry about our jobs and the places we work: Will my employer still be in business? What will my job look like over the long-term? Will I have a job? If I do, how will I continue to work and take care of my family?
While all we wish for is our normal, there are reasons to be optimistic for the future; what may seem like our biggest travesty is likely to become one of the greatest pivotal moments in our careers. The world has changed, there is no going back; “normal” is long gone, and there is a “new normal” emerging. Unless you are an “essential worker,” gone is the time you spent interacting with strangers, colleagues and friends as you commuted to work, ducked out to grab a meal or run an errand, and did your job. Most are settling into a new way of conducting business and, despite significant economic issues, many professionals are finding ways to innovate and create value for their organization. However, what is most important in this transition is maintaining connection in the workplace.
Connections calm us. To cope with changes brought about by COVID-19, people need to stay connected now more than ever. I asked several professionals how they are adapting and staying connected, and their responses revealed what may become a new way of working. While some things cannot change for businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions and transactions, others are growing accustomed to conducting business in a virtual environment. What could once be done, quickly, by having all stakeholders in the room, takes a bit longer in a virtual environment (e.g. reviewing and signing documents). However, with reliable technology, professionals in most industries, are maintaining connections and completing transactions without interruption. In fact, video conferencing allows professionals to proactively engage with employees and clients when limitations such as travel and schedule might not have allowed it in the past. It can also make some professionals more productive. One professional I spoke with is able to get more done in his day by not having to commute to work. Another is finding he can conduct more business in a 20-minute virtual meeting than he used to do in a 60-minute face-to-face meeting, and observed that it’s because there’s less distraction and more focused discussion in a virtual environment than in the board room.
For many, outreach through virtual channels, also seems to be improving employee engagement, morale, and performance. Using direct messaging, through programs such as Microsoft Teams, is creating truly meaningful one-on-one relationships, and also helps to create the virtual “water cooler” conversation that is helpful in breaking up the monotony of the workday.