Change is A-Comin’

This whole pandemic has turned our world upside down. Things that were commonplace before like grabbing a coffee off-site to brainstorm ideas, attending a professional conference or even just congregating in the break room are but a memory.

Instead, thanks to Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or your video chat app of choice, we are conducting our business from the kitchen table, basement rec room, empty guest room or wherever we can carve out a space. And through the process of migrating from a physical office building to our homes, we are gaining a small glimpse into the lives of our colleagues from where they live and who is home with them to what pets they have and how they like to decorate. For me, it’s been really rather refreshing to have a more fully developed sense of who my colleagues are when they’re off the clock. But that’s a post for another day.

As we look ahead to when we all might be able to return to a more normal life – and of course we will return to a more normal life at some point – here are just three of the ways I think “business as usual” will change.

This is no longer a world where “butts in seats” from 9 to 5 is necessary for everyone.

If the work from home model that this pandemic has forced on many of us has done anything, it has really reinforced the notion that many jobs can be done from the comfort of a home office without compromising productivity or work product. The truth is when left to their own devices, people will get the work assigned to them done and done well. It doesn’t matter where they are located or at what time it they choose to do it. Work is work. If you have responsible people on your team things will get done no matter what. Sure there are jobs where people actually have to show up. A chef can’t prepare a fantastic meal from her home. A construction worker can’t phone in the placement of a critical beam. A surgeon can’t perform his job on a Google Hangout. But there are plenty of professionals who really can work from home on the regular without it having a negative impact on their employer’s business.

Working from home fosters a sense of understanding around achieving a work-life balance.

I have friends who are juggling work, caring for (and now teaching) their kids and making sure their parents have what they need. It’s not easy and I know it from my own experience. It’s hard when kids need homework help or the dog has to be walked or dinner has to be made and you are on your fifth call of the day with two more assignments pending. The thing is now managers and bosses will have a better window into what their employees face on a day-to-day basis. I believe the savviest among those will be more compassionate and creative when it comes to helping employees navigate a balanced personal and professional life. In return, employees will understand the value of clear communication, solid expectations and the power of flexibility.

Not every meeting has to be face-to-face. In fact, not everything requires a meeting at all.

When an unnecessary meeting took place back in the day we used to joke that it could have been handled by email. Today we are so busy trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, we’ve resorted to hosting one Zoom meeting after another simply so we can see other faces. But the fact is not everything is worthy of a video chat either. Of course I understand the need for connection. Connecting people, causes, products, services and like is a core principle of public relations. However, it is important to think through why you are hosting a video chat. Could the question you have be handled with a short call? Could the idea you are brainstorming start out on email first? Is a short text enough to get the feedback you need? If the answer to why you need a video call is because you need to see someone, that’s fine. Just make sure that you are connecting with purpose.

What’s next?  

I am sure there are other ways in which our workaday world will change. I am looking forward to seeing how that pans out as we emerge from our current crisis.