The COVID-19 pandemic has been terrible for societies and families around the world, and the required lock-down has negatively impacted many businesses. But the required change has also forced us to rethink how we work and stay connected. We already had the tools available before the pandemic, but not the mindset.
During the first six months of 2019, I did 90 flights for in-person customer meetings. During the first six months of 2021, not a single flight.
From a business perspective, I never expected that our business would run so smooth during the pandemic. Customers quickly replaced in-person meetings and workshops with Microsoft Teams. This meant no longer wasting time in cars, flights, trains, taxis, and hotels.
During the pandemic, life has been spent in front of the computer using Microsoft Office, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive for Business. The workday is spent talking to customers and colleagues across the US, Europe, and India. All employees understood that they needed to be flexible and show resilience in a way that they had never done before. Be flexible to work from home, but also with supporting the kids during home schooling. It was a interesting time to see it all happening.
Employees changed their attitude during COVID, there was a desire to change because they all wanted to support the company which they where proud to work for. Our clients showed employees that they appreciate that the employees where all doing such an incredible job. They understood the situation of the employee. They showed flexibility too. Employees didn’t had to work from 9:00 AM – 17:00 PM. They were aware of the difficulty with the kids around the house. Kids were allowed to scream during the meeting.
The key aspects of driving change is awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, reinforcement. The virtual technology was available before the pandemic, but many employees preferred in-person meetings. The pandemic forced companies to go virtual, and the last key aspect of change is the reinforcement. The COVID took long enough to change the behavior of employees. Virtual meetings have now become the new standard.
Based on this story you could say that we all will work remote from now on, but there is one aspect missing in my story. The aspect of connection. We as persons have the need for connections. A physical connection. Science proofs that the connection is important. People will easier suffer from depression because of the lack of connection. We as persons will pick up emotions easier with a physical connection. The water cooler conversations therefore need to become virtual water cooler conversations. Virtual meetings can´t just be all business. We need time to make the connections.
There is still no need to all move back to the office. We see a lot companies that are building a hybrid way of working. They offer the possibility to work from home and go one or two days to the office. That creates a lot of possibilities for employees to create a better personal and work balance, but keep in mind that managers need to get some new skills to support employees in that area. Most manager are aware, but still miss the knowledge to recognize the situation to support the employees.
I have seen some amazing resilience and flexibility from employees and companies and I hope this behavior will never change. This way we are building a new way of working with the technology like Microsoft Teams.