Navigating the new reality of working together, remotely

How our understanding of work and employee experience is changing

video conferencing / remote work
Filadendron / Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought upon us new realizations and understanding of work, customer experience, our personal home lives and daily new learnings that will impact and change how we do business for the foreseeable future. While we’ve talked ad nauseum about digital transformation and anointed experts and thought leaders to tell us about it in books and conferences, the reality of it has been thrust upon us, forcing businesses of all sizes into a transformation that many were not ready for. The experts for sure did not tell us about this. 

Workplace culture has shifted

There is now a huge cultural shift we face in managing our business and home lives during this time of transition and transformation. Those two worlds, which we compartmentalized and considered separate, have merged. The overwhelming realization is that they were never separate to begin with. Due to this, CIOs and enterprise IT leaders are faced with the challenge of managing business continuity, remote work capacity, and the core reality of employee morale with the full understanding that everyone’s situation is unique. Everyone working from home has unique needs. However, they are all human needs that require a high degree of empathy. This is about people first! 

So, navigating this requires integrated leadership skills that include the technical and the humane. This is way more than hey, usage of real-time collaboration tools like video conferencing is going through the roof! Cue in every infographic with stats on video usage during the pandemic. The hot take is, the human need for connectivity and collaboration in our personal lives and for work productivity required it. 

We recently had a very thought-provoking discussion with Stacey Epstein, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at ServiceMax, about these very topics. Clearly, it is an understatement to say that now a spotlight has been put on the needed balance between our home and work lives. There is an empathy gap that needs to be filled as organizations have to manage this shift. In one of our exchanges, Stacey gave us some poignant thoughts and a real-life scenario of what this looks like.

Stacey Epstein: “We do also have offices across the globe. And for those that go into an office, we do have a very much work-in-the-office culture and we've had to make a dramatic shift. And there have been so many conversations at the executive level at our company about how to manage and evolve all our culture in this time.

“And, you know, you can imagine it ranges from, we have to put the pedal to the metal and, even though other companies are struggling, we can't let up. We have to push, push, push, push, push, and then the tension between that and the conversations around, Hey, one of our key employees who's working on the most important initiative in the company, has two little kids and you know, we can't break her. We have to give her the time and the space to manage her home life and a real understanding amongst our executive team that there is tension and conflict between high-performing employees and giving employees the space to manage everything that's happening in their world.

“And the interesting part of that is, that's always been true, right? Like don't we always need to think about the tension between driving performance and also balance in people's lives and letting them pursue other interests, whether it's their kids or a hobby or an animal, or a boat or whatever it is, that has always existed. And I think great leaders have understood that tension and found a way to drive a culture that allows for both.”

Listen to the full conversation with Stacey Epstein here: 

It was great hearing Stacey’s business mind but also her heart on this. This needed and sobering conversation with Stacey highlights where we currently are and the leadership that is required to navigate through it. What we do now will set the course for managing whatever the new normal will be in a post pandemic world, if that is even a thing.

The ever-important intersection of people, processes and technology requires a new type of leadership with a true north orienting point that is people-centric. If digital transformation means changing everything, primarily with the customer experience, employee engagement, supply chain and other operational considerations, we have lost the luxury of time to decide, we are here. We must rise to the occasion! 

Final thoughts

The workplace is experiential and therefore strategies have to center around how people are experiencing it. The Covid-19 pandemic has driven home the point that primary attention must be given to the experience of people internally as well as and externally to our organizations. Technology does play an important part. However, we have to drive a culture of collaboration and inclusion as we navigate what is no longer the future, but the very present reality of work.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 secrets of successful remote IT teams