Disconnected, but Very-well Connected: The Birth of the Virtual Work Life
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The coronavirus pandemic has changed us as a race and the way we work. It has disrupted the very notion of order in our society as well as our businesses. We have found ways to carry out our work like it never changed.
If we track back our lives in the pre-COVID era, more often than not, our workplaces had become our parallel homes - we hated being there at times and we loved it at times but did we ever not want to be there? Nah! Well, here we are, away from our workplaces, working from homes with the chaos, the children, the spouses, the elderly, and ourselves too.
In the last month and a half, I have truly understood the meaning of Juggad, the true Indian way. Technology has been offered us solutions that we never imagined and it is the jugaad that has kept us afloat mentally and economically, to an extent. It is amazing how technology has come to our rescue in these unprecedented times. We have moved our personal interface and our work online and it is working just fine. Yes, some of us would love to see more people in flesh and blood but for now, this is just fine. We are all getting used to the new normal, we have past our 21 days already and according to research, this could very well be a habit for us now - to work from home.
A few years from now, we may perhaps look back and say that 2020 was the start of the virtual work era that changed the way we ‘connected and communicated’.
Is the shift here to stay?
According to a survey done by Gartner in April 2020, 74% of companies worldwide plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19. There will be a continuous and constant shift in how work happens, which will not be the same anymore. The new normal will be different in feel and experience, this persistent shift will make the corporate workforce experience an exorbitant level of digitalization. With recent decisions of the government reopening offices at 33% employee capacity, most workplaces are likely to witness the new normal in work patterns. Physical workspaces will take even better care of sanitization and hygiene; group meetings would be limited to just the important personnel, and lunch-tables would have substantial gaps to maintain personal hygiene.
The era of virtual teams
The COVID-19 experience will certainly have long-term effects on the way we work and operate in the forthcoming times. Hence, it is possibly essential to comprehend how to efficiently lead your teams virtually. Working in such a way is comparatively new for many, and so it is imperative to establish new methods and ways of working together. Over 30% of the world’s population being in lockdown, Teams/Zoom/Google Meets are becoming the normal ways to communicate, whether it is an official business meeting or regular chatting with friends and family. These video calling platforms have become the backbone for most of the companies and institutes. With travel being banned and office spaces shut, virtual meetings are keeping companies alive by cutting down the economic impact on business. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that all the employees follow the norms and culture of working together even in this digital world!
Technology aiding emotional availability for the team
When it comes to the use of technology for virtual workplaces, we have known it to support business and formal communications but most organizations will steadily realize the absence of emotional support in the tech-led, work-from-home culture. Millennials, who are possibly the largest contributors to our workforce and according to a report, 70% of millennials experience some degree of emotional burnout. To lower the burnout, leaders, and managers will have to take measures to create a virtual environment that will encourage emotional support via technology. Just an informal video call, to check in with your colleague asking ‘How’s it going today’ is sometimes enough and will have to be done more frequently.
Work-commute vis-a-via the new normal
Even with a steep decline in voluntary international travel for some time to come, the necessity of work commute has taken an additional hit. Mumbai locals and Delhi Metro being the two most used public transport of the country, have a total daily ridership of over 12Mn as per the official data. With such a large population commuting to work in these rails, social distancing is nearly impossible, giving more reasons to the organizations to move the entire corporate structure virtually.
We have seen a vast cultural change over the past few weeks. This new era of digital workplaces is extending much promising potential by unleashing new prospects & ways of working and connecting. Thus, working from home comes with strings attached to benefits for both, the company and for its employees.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 is a significant challenge that cannot be overcome overnight. However, amidst its unpredictability, uncertainty, and ambiguity lie unseen opportunities to discover, reinvent, and grow at the individual, organizational and societal levels.
We are not aware of the length of this crisis, or the global impact. But, with this ‘survival mode’ on, we will be able to recognize the challenges we are facing with this virtual transformation and will be better prepared to utilize the opportunities by making a meaningful contribution.