by Sue Weston

What the coronavirus has taught us about transformation

Apr 13, 2020
IT Leadership

Becoming 100% virtual is a major disruptor to the way we do business, the way we learn and the way we live – but it is also propelling us forward while making use of fully available technology.

telecommuting corona virus surgical mask remote worker 5g wi fi by mediaphotos getty images and wyn
Credit: wynand van poortvliet / MediaPhotos / Getty Images

When bad things happen, I struggle to find the silver lining, the positive spin. Case in point: The coronavirus is disrupting our lives in many ways, not least of which is forcing people to stay at home to flatten the curve. But it is also increasing the adoption of technology for every individual and industry worldwide.

I expect this change to have a lasting impact, by creating new channels for collaboration, increasing productivity and providing work-life balance. Going virtual overnight is harnessing the power of technology, causing a digital transformation that is changing the world – for the better.

As offices rush to provide employees with technologies to work from home, managers who had resisted remote working because they were unable to walk around and verify that employees were at their desks are discovering how mistaken they were. Technology solutions are replacing the watercooler and providing new opportunities to connect virtually and exchange ideas. And working from home infuses a human element, introducing family, pets and hobbies to co-workers as well as showing families what happens at work. Technology is breaking down the boundaries separating family from commerce, shifting focus from managing staff to delivering results.

Organizations need to rewrite the rules of engagement to help employees to function virtually

The transition from brick to click would typically span over multiple years, leaving workers and companies time to adjust. With companies going virtual overnight, here are some tips to help with the transition:

  1. Communicate clearly and often to all employees. Reduce the stress from uncertainty and fear of becoming obsolete by explaining how their roles will change.
  2. Provide education on how to use technology effectively. Don’t assume that people know or will figure it out.
  3. Update your policies and procedures. This provides consistency and manages expectations, helping employees balance work and home. For example, just because you can respond to an email immediately, does not mean you should.
  4. Encourage video meetings. This increases human contact, avoids feelings of isolation and humanizes colleagues. Create an inclusive environment to draw teams together.
    1. Allow everyone to participate fully and have their voice heard by asking participants to remain on mute until they want to speak or using break-out rooms for ideation.
    2. Provide breaks between meetings (or schedule calls for 45 minutes). This provides participants time to stretch and prepare for their next meeting.
  5. Find time for fun. Schedule virtual coffee breaks, or meditation sessions.

Technology allows companies to move from brick to click would overnight and is producing amazing results

Moving to a virtual work environment rewrites all the rules. Some industries are finding innovative ways to connect with clients. For example, the fitness industry made a remarkable adjustment, turning to streaming options. And because gyms are small, closed communities, transitioning clients who were working from home to exercise at home has been successful.

For educators, going virtual is a massive undertaking, because of the number of students and schools, each operating differently. Educators and students must develop a new engagement model because replacing brick and mortar with eLearning is more than converting lesson plans to PowerPoint. Educators are learning how to use technology and finding new ways to connect remotely with their students and colleagues. Schools need to provide students high-speed internet access and computers. One California school used a drive-through pick-up to give families the technology to connect.

Becoming 100% virtual is a major disruptor to the way we do business, learn and live – but it is propelling us forward to use available technology. The results are positively amazing:

  • Connecting work with family has helped create role-balance, reducing stereotypes. Woman can prioritize both family and career.
  • Increasing family together time (in 2018 the average family spent only 37 minutes daily).
  • Offering innovative eLearning which matches content with everyone’s learning style, and gamification which makes learning fun. And it replaces tests (that measure memorization) with interactive learning (which becomes more difficult as the learner progresses), producing in a higher caliber graduate.
  • Increasing access to a wider applicant pool helps job seekers and companies. Companies can save on the cost of real estate and focus their investment on products/services.
  • Remote employees who are happier and 20% more productive than their in-office counterparts. They can structure their days to have more ‘me’ time, devoted to exercise, personal well-being and self-actualization.

Our world has flipped in response to the pandemic, changing behavior to maintain social distancing and pushing us into a world simplified by technology. The benefits, both personally and professionally are profound – allowing us to be more productive, connected and balanced. These unprecedented times are challenging but working together creatively and innovatively may just be the silver lining.