It’s been roughly 12 weeks since the great work-from-home (WFH) experiment began in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Over half of U.S. workers carved out space in their living rooms, dining rooms, spare bedrooms and kitchens to make room for themselves, their housemates and their family members to get to work (or school). For IT departments, months- or years-long plans to enable remote work were suddenly implemented overnight.
By most accounts, workers quickly adopted new videoconferencing and collaboration platforms, and not only tolerated the connectivity glitches but also celebrated the very human moments that ensued, whether it was interruptions from pets and children or the unkempt appearance of their coworkers.
But even as states and countries phase in their reopening plans, it’s becoming clear that many of us will be sharing that dining room table or couch as our workspace for possibly the rest of 2020, if not longer. What was new, different and a change of pace is settling into “the norm.” Conditions that might have been acceptable in crisis mode will inevitably begin to chafe once people realize they’re in it for the long haul.
As the sense of crisis dissipates — and as some businesses begin opening their doors for skeleton-crew versions of their previous ranks to spend time in the office — it’s time to envision how this new normal could work better. Which quick fixes need to be rethought? Which new ways of working should be fortified with additional tools and infrastructure? How can we be sure remote employees feel as supported as if they were physically present in the office?
Forward-looking businesses are tackling these issues by revisiting decisions made and actions taken in the heat of crisis thinking. They’re assessing what went right or wrong in the last three months of WFH to make the remote worker experience even better.
Here are just a few of the key takeaways we’ve observed from client experiences:
Now’s the time to review the new technology landscapes created in haste and apply tried-and-true thinking about governance, security and compliance, all within the context of the user experience. For example, workers might start to travel more as cities phase in their reopening plans. This might mean more workers using a wider variety of devices than just their home-based systems, which could introduce security risks. Businesses that haven’t yet invested in basic remote-work infrastructure components should take a fresh look at what’s missing, from a WFH point of view. Now that we know how quickly IT can move when it needs to, and how resilient it can be, it’s time to build on that and lay down the roots for future agility. It’s also become clear that the technology itself has matured to a point where it can be deployed more quickly and more successfully than in years past.
Not long ago, workers were clamoring to work from home. Now, even companies like Google are acknowledging that too much of a good thing can cause stress and burnout, and are providing resources to remote workers to ensure health and wellness. While not every company can afford to offer employees a $1,000 stipend to upgrade their home office as Shopify and Google have, one thing is certain: The next phase of WFH will be very different from the last one, as the black-and-white restrictions of the initial shutdown fade into gray areas of navigating the recovery. If we have learned anything from this crisis, it’s to have the tools in place to support approaches to work we would not have imagined before.
This article was written by Suzanne George, Chief Architect of Cognizant’s Modern WorkPlace.
To learn more, attend our streaming video webinar, “Welcome to Remotopia: A Virtual Workplace for Us All,” visit the Virtual Workplace section of our website, or contact us.