March 17. That’s the day things basically shut down here in the US and many of us entered the remote workplace full time. Certainly, it’s been longer for those of you in Europe and other countries, and you’re seeing more daylight at the end of the tunnel. The point is, it feels like we’ve been doing this forever.
While nobody can say for sure what the workplace, and even work itself, will look like in the coming months (let alone years) we do know that some things have changed forever. While we complain that change takes too much time, a lot has happened in less time than a single NFL season, or the gestation period of a mule deer.
- Over 20 major companies have filed for bankruptcy protection.This doesn’t include all the mom and pop businesses like bars and restaurants which have closed their doors for good. This is a big deal for the job market and for the long-term health of companies. This isn’t to be negative, it’s just a fact that will impact a lot of businesses for the next few months.
- We crashed through the “use your webcam” barrier. For years we’ve been telling people that webcams were a great tool for relationship building and to make remote work more productive, and people resisted. Sometimes it was for good reason—bandwidth can be a constraint. Mostly it was for non-work related issues (People don’t like to wear grownup clothes when working from home.) The people in the office felt they didn’t need to see each other on camera and gave a pass to the folks working from home. Those days are over. In fact, the problem now is we’re on camera too often in a given day. We may even have to get smarter about when and how often we use our cameras, but they are part of our everyday tool kit now.
- Technology is changing faster than it was (which was already exhausting). Since technology exists to solve problems, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the work-from-home explosion has resulted in new technology and tools. Here’s a simple example of how fast things are changing: In January of this year, Zoom was an emerging but still niche product. By April, it was a verb: pretty much everyone knew what, “let’s Zoom and talk about it,” means. Additionally, Google changed its free “Hangout” software to “Google Meet,” Facebook added meeting rooms, and Slack and Microsoft Teams are in an arms race to add new features, ranging from messaging capability to new emojis.
- Hybrid teams are the future, whatever that will mean. As companies try to figure out what their new normal will be, more folks than ever will work from home, at least part time. As a result, there will be more hybrid teams than ever. Not only will there be fewer people in the office, and more people working away from that site (at least part time) which means the balance of power will likely shift, but HR and other departments will have to reexamine how they manage performance and do succession planning.
How many of those trends did you see happening back in March? There’s no reason to believe our crystal balls will be any more accurate going forward. All we can do is keep our eyes and ears peeled, adjust as necessary, and stay sane.
We’ll do what we can to help. You can keep up with the latest developments in the remote work space by subscribing to our Remote Work Resources newsletter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.