Make no mistake – the Coronavirus pandemic is a serious matter.
There is no doubt we will see the ripple effects of COVID-19 for months and years to come. None of us will know the full repercussions of our decisions for quite some time. BUT – have you considered some of the changes this public health and economic crisis may usher into the way you live and work post-pandemic?
When life returns to normal, what will that “new” normal look like?
Opportunities From a Digital Perspective
From a digital perspective, this tragedy has provided a great opportunity.
The epidemic has pushed us all to maximize our use of available technology to stay connected personally and professionally, and forced both individuals and organizations outside of their “comfort zone.” Those who pre-pandemic were reluctant to adopt technology, are jumping in, and those who had been early adopters, have already found additional and better ways to use what is available.
I see the changes to “virtual” from “face-to-face” (“F2F”) as coming primarily in four categories:
1. Virtual-Meeting: conducting business and meetings
2. Virtual-Medicine: delivering basic diagnosis and some treatment
3. Virtual-Education: delivering distance learning for K through 12 and Universities
4. Virtual-Worship: remaining connected with our faith communities
I'll focus this newsletter on virtual meetings. Previously, many organizations were most comfortable with F2F meetings and used remote means only when F2F was impossible. It used to be that only telephone conference calls were used to connect remote participants. In many cases, the remote participant was “joined” to the meeting, but the real action – and communication – actually occurred in the F2F space.
That wasn't the case for large corporations who had the resources and staff to build and manage High-Definition TV/telephone facilities where people could communicate by voice and visually. Over the years, equipment for video calls and the quality of connections has improved dramatically, and the cost has decreased significantly so that more businesses and individuals can enjoy the same performance.
Virtual presence can increase engagement by the participants. It's hard not to notice someone who is multi-tasking when he or she is on a video call as opposed to a phone call. So those distractions are decreased. A good part of communication involves seeing the participant to better gauge the strength of the commitment to – or truth of – the message being delivered.
That's an important element of our communication.
There are also challenges to using this technology medium. Many of the challenges fall on management. So, while most of the workforce has been comfortable with virtual meetings for quite some time, the real struggle during the pandemic is for managers who are struggling with the virtual managing of people.
• It's hard to decipher tone in an email, and many things can be misconstrued.
• Managers are struggling with managing through ambiguity.
• In-person face-to-face meetings allow for the nuanced interruption to make a point or brainstorm ideas, while on virtual calls, interruptions create confusion due to the technology.
Communication styles and management styles need to adjust as a result, and managers need to learn to be very clear in their communications to their teams. Successful organizations will find ways to work through these obstacles.
For the future, I see businesses reassessing the need for high-cost real estate for every employee. More businesses than before will adopt the “hoteling” concept being used even before the epidemic by a number of major consulting firms and other corporations. And such methods will also increase business flexibility.
Experts can be recruited “remotely” as needed from various office locations of a company – or from independent sources around the world.
Organizations formerly apprehensive with respect to allowing employees to work remotely will likely be much less resistant to integrating remote workers where it makes sense.
That's a change that could well remain in place after the health effects of the epidemic have ended.
In our next newsletter, we discuss the coming changes in virtual-medicine.