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  • Chris

6 new ways of working to hang on to

Many organisations have already made moves to permanently adopt a hybrid model of working. Businesses as diverse as Google and Standard Chartered bank have committed to more flexible approaches, allowing staff to spend some time at home, some at the office (‘hub’) and some at local satellite offices or at home.

While this shift in working culture will enhance many people’s lives, it’s not the only win to come out of a year spent working from home.

Here are six other changes to work from the last 18 months that we should probably hang on to as the pandemic becomes (hopefully) a distant memory over coming months.

Quicker catch-ups, cleaner collaboration

‘Watercooler moments’ were much mourned as office buildings mothballed their facilitaties. But did they really disappear?

Communications platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Instant Messenger have allowed rapid, quick-fire conversation to continue during the pandemic. What’s more, the ability to share files, send hyperlinks and chat with multiple colleagues simultaneously has arguably made these conversations more efficient. There is still a human connection missing from these, but they have taught us that we can use the time we have more effectively.

Employees’ ability to grab a teammate for some quick collaboration has also been enhanced through the use of shareable documents. Businesses that previously discouraged the use of Google Docs have discovered its advantages thanks to Covid-19. The existence of a single, secure file that can be edited, commented on and accessed by multiple members of a team removes the need for confusing multiple versions – not to mention hard copies. Moreover, it mitigates the risk of data loss.

More meaningful meetings

Coronavirus has led to significant change in the meetings culture at some companies, particularly those that were prone to calling frequent, large gatherings.

Unable to get lots of people together in person, they’ve had to consider other, more efficient ways of communicating. Intranets and software such as Microsoft Teams have proved popular for making announcements and distributing information, while Slack and other messenger platforms offer the opportunity to iron out issues that might previously have demanded a ‘quick’ 30-minute meeting.

Think in the style of Amazon's approach to meetings... if you can't feed a meeting room with two pizzas then there are too many people involved.

Meanwhile, the transfer of meetings to Zoom and Teams has helped to expose when meetings include attendees who don’t really need to be there, allowing them to tune out or drop off calls altogether.

I think we are all used to seeing people just disappear - far easier than leaving a physical meeting room.

The viability of virtual meetings has also been established beyond doubt during the pandemic. Where employers might have insisted it wasn’t possible to make big decisions, review budgets or hire staff while working remotely, in 2020 they proved it could be done – even if, post-pandemic, it will be preferable to do these things at the corporate hub.

The secret is going to be balance. Zoom fatigue is real so care is needed to make sure these interactions remain valuable.

Increased empathy

During the pandemic, leaders and managers have been more mindful than ever of the need to regularly check in on their teams, particularly during strict lockdowns. We managed this very efficiently at Acceler8 HQ.

As workers struggled to manage their jobs alongside home schooling and other life or care commitments, Zoom calls were used for pastoral care and virtual 'gin nights' as well as project management. Our daily 'virtual cuppa' was an informal way of checking in with everyone at the start of lockdown and could easily be carried into the new world.

In an era of global disruption, it was also easier than ever for people to admit when they were struggling. I hope that this openness between employees and business leaders – as well as the empathy it often inspired – will persist long after the pandemic is behind us. Wellbeing is vital for all - and how leaders harness the power of empathy will be make or break for leadership success in the future.

More efficient project management

Flipcharts covered in Post-it notes are all very well when your team can walk past them, but they’re of little use when everyone works remotely - and we are big fans of sticky notes and flipcharts at Acceler8.

Covid-19 sent project management online in organisations that had previously preferred more traditional methods, inspiring them to invest in programmes such as Trello, Workfront and Asana.

A 2020 survey found that 43% of firms had adopted a new tool since the start of the pandemic, while 26% said they intended to adopt one soon. We've tried many and have a few favourites - having a cloud based project management system has been game changing for us, giving us all a real time view of every project, every milestone and everyones workload.

Digitising project management has democratised it, allowing employees equal access to information that’s updated in real time, no matter where they are. Even as ‘work from home’ directives disappear, it seems likely the whiteboards of the future will have notes projected, rather than Blu-Tacked, on to them. I'll admit, I will need to take a moment to mourn the loss of the sticky note... or just deny it and order some more...

Enhanced independence

The risk that working remotely might lead to loneliness or isolation was a key concern during the pandemic. But the flip side of flying solo is enhanced independence, and that’s something countless workers have welcomed over the past year. The initial thought that anyone with an introverted preference would be flying high was soon put to the back of our minds when we realised that everyone needed support.

The ability to set your own agenda and work flexibly has, for many of us, led to tangible improvements in mental health and wellbeing.

At the same time, the challenge of working from home around family, housemates and pets has led some of us to experiment with more strategic approaches to time management. The choice that hybrid brings will capitalise on this and allow people to choose the method or location of work that suits them best.

Readiness to change

Change is constant - and pacier than it has ever been.

The adoption of hybrid working is only one way some firms are reinventing themselves in the wake of Covid-19. Research has shown that 77% of companies had to adapt their offerings so they could be delivered virtually. We are definitely no exception to that and I'm proud to claim that we mastered it - and it's taken significant investment to achieve that in many cases.

With all the difficult stuff aside, we can find some real wins from the last 18 months. In a working world that was slowly evolving, Covid-19 has been the catalyst for sweeping changes, big and small - all of them having the potential to make a significant long term change to the way we all experience work.

So, how ready are you for hybrid working? What steps do you need to take with induction, onboarding and re-boarding? Are you going to be an organisation of the future or an organisation of the past?

For many of us, things won’t go back to the way they were before. But, then when we have a taste of how truly balanced work and life can be, why would we want them to? Unless it's flipcharts and sticky notes... we will still be using them in some form or another...

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