To say the coronavirus has had an impact on the way the world “works” would be an understatement.
In a matter of weeks, we’ve gone from a society that sees remote work as a luxury, or even a “freelancer lifestyle,” to realizing the vast majority of jobs today can be done from home. Companies that hadn’t moved the majority of their assets to the cloud are now doing so at a rampant rate. Video calls have gone from being a sub-optimal alternative to a core function of the way we communicate. The list goes on and on—and the impact is here to stay.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed several shifts in our company, Skylum, as more than 100 of us around the world have adjusted to the new rules of society.
Many have never worked from home before, which comes with a unique learning curve. Many have never had the opportunity to connect and collaborate with other employees who work out of offices on different continents—which is now easier since everyone is “remote.” Many have also never viewed their job descriptions through the lens of being quarantined, where tasks left unfinished become more obvious to the rest of the group (in an office setting it’s easier to appear “busy”).
There have been both pros and cons in adjusting to the way the coronavirus is impacting our world. But one thing is for certain: the future of work will never be the same.
Here are four ways professional work is set to change moving forward.
1. When we go back to the office, we will now understand how things can work when people are purely focused on productivity and communication.
It’s very hard for people to shift from regular working hours and working within an office environment, to working at home.
The way you communicate with colleagues is different. The way you organize your day is different. Quite often, people tend to know everything that’s happening within their team, and a little bit of what’s happening in cross-functional teams just by being in the same physical environment. But when you work remotely, you’re isolated from that information.
Team alignment is going to become an even more pressing focus for companies moving forward. In an office setting, this happens passively. You’re aligned (or at least, you think you are) simply because you’re all “together.” But as soon as you add the remote element into the mix, you realize how much more intentional you need to be in order to keep everyone up to speed.
Tools, best practices, and team habits that nurture team alignment are going to be front and center in the years to come.
2. Companies will work hard to become more efficient using software tools that cater to both remote and in-office employees.
Working in an office will no longer be a requirement.
Of course, people like myself may prefer working in a physical office. Companies will still incentivize employees to do so, and certain employees will still prefer a physical office to working from home. But all in all, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that remote work isn’t only possible, but actually tremendously beneficial in some cases. Having more of your workforce remote means less overhead and office space. Remote means more flexibility for team members all across the organization. Remote means creating an even playing field for employees in different locations, and even countries. Most of all, remote means evaluating productivity more objectively—you either completed the task, or you didn’t. There are no bonus points for “looking busy.”
Tools that can assist companies in seamlessly integrating in-office teams with remote teams are going to become red hot in the near future. Many already are. Overnight, tools like Zoom and Slack seemed closer to social networks than enterprise communication tools.
3. Companies will seek to provide new, emotionally-supportive benefits to employees.
Feeling isolated is one of the biggest challenges of working remotely.
In the past, this issue wasn’t really addressed for companies that allowed employees to work remotely, either part of the time or all the time. Most likely, it’s because not enough people (decision-makers, especially) had ever experienced being on the other side of the fence, feeling that same isolation themselves and wanting to solve for it.
Now that we’ve all experienced working from home, and we’ve all felt feelings of isolation, distance, a reliance on video calls for social interaction, etc., more and more decision-makers now seem in favor of solving this problem. This is going to spark companies to come up with unique, innovative ways of engaging their distributed workforce, ensuring that no employee feels detached from the rest of the team.
4. Communication habits will continue to trend in the direction of fast and immediate conversation.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen our entire company use email less often as a medium for communication.
The reason being, email takes a ton of time. When someone sees an email, they tend to think of it as a To-Do and wait to get to it until later—whereas a Slack message, or an invite to a video call, prompts much faster, more efficient conversation.
This is a trend that has been increasing for a while now, but with millions of workers trying to do their jobs from home, we are going to see adoption for faster, more efficient tools at a record pace. For context, it took Slack almost 5 years (2015 to 2020) to go from 1 million to 10 million users. And in a matter of weeks in March 2020, Slack added 2.5 million users—and is still growing rapidly.
The world is undoubtedly changing before our very eyes. And these are just a few examples of how the future of work will never be the same again.