I am going to lay my neck on the line here and say the world is very different now to what it was 12-14 months ago. The idea of widespread home-schooling, universal remote working for most industries, and stock exchanges and trading floors being operated from home offices were as likely as being able to successfully land a helicopter on Mars.
Even more surprisingly, activities such as regular hand washing, spending extended time with family members (either in person or on-line) and wearing facemasks in public are now commonplace in many societies.
The last few months have helped to showcase two of humans’ more endearing qualities – adaptability and ingenuity.
In our little corner of humanity here at Code Software, we have seen a change in the way company leaders view the importance of data. Back in the heady days of World Lockdown Part I, the focus was on business continuity, namely:
- How can we (as closely as possible) replicate what we were doing in the office with an army of home-workers?
- How can we tell if everybody isn’t just watching Homes Under the Hammer [insert appropriate alternative of an equivalent daytime TV show here] instead of doing their work?
The perverse nature of the pandemic was, whereas at first it was considered to be a great leveller, what actually happened was the exact opposite. Masses of people were furloughed or worse, whilst many others saw their workload increase to an (sorry, I was going to write this without using the word) unprecedented scale. Teams, Zoom and their ilk it turns out are really good at helping us to meet, collaborate, discuss and strategise. So much so in fact, you could spend all day doing it – one meeting after another; back-to-back; a veritable series of meetings. All those old ‘out of office’ cliches were coming true. And we couldn’t even claim to be out of the office any more! The irony weighed heavy.
Consequently, leaders have had to refocus on what is important. Customers still demand good service, deadlines still have to be met, and work continues to be completed however, the traditional managers’ fear of workers slacking off when they are working from home has not borne out. In fact, in most cases the opposite has shown to be true as homeworkers craft an environment that suits them as an individual, and time and everyday tasks become more fluid.
The more prevalent concern these days is staff well-being. If members of staff are going from one virtual meeting to the next, some days with hardly time to draw breath never mind take 20 minutes exercise or stop for lunch, there is real potential for burn-out. Likewise, there is the issue of fair and effective distribution of work because not everybody has suddenly become 100% committed to the cause. The question of how to monitor staff effort and spot disparities and over-stretch is where productivity reports and dashboards can bring real value to an organisation, and its leaders and staff.
When it comes down to it, the world probably hasn’t changed all that much – but our attitudes to it may have done, just a little. Nowadays, nobody cares if we can see a dressing gown hung on the bedroom door during a Teams conference. Hearing a child interrupt a meeting to ask their parent for something is endearing not embarrassing. It is absolutely ok to pause the meeting for 30 seconds while somebody signs for their Amazon delivery.
Back in 2017, children coming into their father’s office while he was conducting a BBC news interview received global attention. I would suggest it would engender a different reaction today from the father, the interviewer and the audience (it is still funny though). To create the same level of interest these days during an on-line meeting, you literally have to get naked – or turn yourself into a cat. Long may the slow evolution continue, but let’s not lose sight of how we are going along.