Written by: Chayton Allen
The pace of digital transformation has skyrocketed within the year of 2020. Companies quickly had to pivot and change what they were doing pre-Covid-19. Digital transformation has become very prominent in our current pandemic and will be prominent going forward as well. What will be the new standard for companies and industries across the board? Surely it cannot go back to the way the world was pre-pandemic, the world will not ignore what has happened within the last year.
Currently, organizations are now shifting their perspectives from short term solutions to long term changes. After almost a year of being in a work from home environment, industries are trying to adjust to this paradigm shift and blend the best of the new with the best of the old going into 2021. All industries are trying to solve problems like office space, collaboration, and digital transformation tools during this pandemic and after the pandemic.
What’s Going to Happen in 2021?
A number of companies have advocated for employees to stay home not only for 2020 but also for 2021. The current workspace will be changing into the new year, a lot of office space is no longer necessary. Downsizing will be something that most companies are looking to do since working from home will be a commonality for the foreseeable future. This will save companies money in the long term. Certain companies have been utilizing this time to take their current office space agreements and change them to smaller locations.
A hybrid model for working from home and working in the office may be implemented across multiple industries for the new year. This will be beneficial not only for employers but also employees. From an employer’s perspective saving money on office space, supplies and food can add up to a substantial amount of savings in the long run. For employees having the ability to work and live anywhere flexible hours and eliminating commuting is very attractive.
Interacting with coworkers and clients was turned upside down in March 2020. Something as simple as poking your head up from your desk and asking a coworker when something had to be done is no longer an option. Taking out clients or prospects for dinners has also been put on hold. How can the old be blended with the new post-pandemic to allow for closer interaction with clients and coworkers while still being able to be safe?
The first element we need to examine how to blend the old with the new environment is employee communication and collaboration. We used to communicate with each other by getting up and walking over to someone on the other side of the office. We have now been accustomed to online messaging without a need to be around each other physically. This opens up the possibility that we aren’t going back into the office like how we were pre-pandemic. Even though we aren’t out of the woods just yet with this pandemic, it is safe to say the collaboration will not be the same going forward. Our ability to communicate with one another efficiently has shown that people can work from home without communication issues.
However, where it gets complicated is when you look at the daily interactions we used to have in the office. Talking at the watercooler or in the break room is no longer a part of our day to day. Going back to the office would fix this issue but if we stay in the work from home environment for a longer period of time, this can’t be fixed over the internet. This is where a hybrid model, working from home and working in the office, will likely be the best choice for organizations in 2021. This will allow employees to be at home and still be productive while also being at the office some days and keeping in-person collaboration maintained. In order for this hybrid model to work efficiently, digital tools need to be up to par within organizations.
Clients and prospects
How do you replicate the old experiences pre-covid with clients and prospects? How does a virtual substitute compare against meeting physically, having dinners, going out for drinks, eye contact, and body language? Even though you can speak to clients and prospects over the phone or through email it does not create the same experience. Most companies would like to go back to the pre-covid model where they can take their clients out and impress them.
Unfortunately, there is not an easy solution that exists for an alternative but here’s what you do in the meantime. There are a few elements that need to be kept in mind when meeting virtually with clients and prospects. While on a call employees must be present on video and on the microphone and show that they are engaged. Being an active listener through body language is important in physical meetings therefore needs to be translated virtually as well. Companies that set standards for video and audio will have a greater impact. Since in-person meetings are limited or non-existent currently, having active conversations and being engaged in understanding what your client or prospect is dealing with is critical.
Working from home has increased productivity. In a period of 9 months researchers found that working from home increases productivity by 13%.
Optimizing Digital Tools
Organizations were forced to mobilize non-essential employees, and now with the second wave of the pandemic rearing its ugly head the delay of returning to the office is being pushed back further. Companies who have taken a financial hit because of their lack of digital ability, have realized that they need better digital capabilities. There has been a shift to a new way of thinking, and it branches into two main categories: employee productivity and employee engagement.
Ensuring that employees have the best experience and access to information is important. The more information they have available the more productive employees will be. Organizations also need to make sure that they are giving tasks that have a level of urgency assigned to them. This will help with employee productivity, tasks won’t get done without a sense of urgency. While most industries are shifting to have better digital transformation capabilities. It is also a great time to reevaluate employees’ work and see if there is room for optimization.
Working from home has increased productivity according to a study by Standford, in a period of 9 months researchers found that working from home increases productivity by 13%. In this same study workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and attrition rates were cut by 50%. Attrition rates directly lead to employee engagement showing that engagement is upheld even while working from home.
Employee engagement is a subject that has become more difficult to stay on top of since the pandemic. How can you keep employee engagement throughout an organization while having everyone working from home? Employees are juggling health, work, family, and economic stressors throughout the pandemic. Organizations need to ensure that employees are happy and that needs are met as opposed to causing stress for employees. Collaboration is one of the foundations for employees to engage with one another. Working together with coworkers needs to be a routine that stays with employees even during work from home.
We recognize that digital transformation is happening at a faster pace because of covid-19. The next step is to make sure all these engagements are positive for everyone within a company. Organizations have been forced to enhance their technologies during this pandemic. During and after an enhancement in technologies certain objectives need to be considered. There needs to be an investment in that technology that will change the employee experience.
What is going to be the new standard for 2021 post-pandemic? Social norms will not stay the same but in a lot of ways, the pandemic has been beneficial. We have crossed over into space where we have seen and experienced something entirely different in the world. This change will have cascading effects on our communication, the way we interact with one another, and how we use office space. This post-pandemic era could arguably be one of the most important chapters in the history of mankind like: the internet, the industrial revolution, or the printing press.