The corona pandemic has only been with us for a few days, but one thing can already be said: It acts as a catalyst in many areas that massively accelerates technology-driven changes, especially when it comes to collaboration. Just one number: 52% of German employees do home office every now and then. Very few companies have stable and holistic processes to switch the entire work mode to remote work.
But this is exactly what companies around the world are forced to do overnight to prevent Covid19 from spreading exponentially. And it already shows that we as a society are currently experiencing a change that will last. Until now, remote work stood for freedom and flexibility, now it becomes an externally determined form of work that lasts for weeks or months.
This can put massive strain on employees and business processes – especially if companies have so far neglected their digital homework. This is all the more true since Covid19 is the first crisis since the Second World War that really affects “everyone”. All layers, all industries, all continents.
Companies will have to tighten internal organization and management style, following infrastructural and legal principles. In this situation, good managers are particularly in demand – of course the C-Levels, but even more so the middle management with its operational control tasks. We see three dimensions here:
- … easily understandable and consistent guidance for dealing with remote work
- … Rapid provision of the necessary infrastructure and tools
- … Sustainable integration of remote work into everyday work and life
1st dimension: guidance
Communicating transparently and clearly how collaboration in the mobile office should work – this is the first task for managers in the current phase of change. The basic principle here is trust.
Smart managers are now more than ever promoting independent, flexible work and see their own role more as a coach and trainer than as a measurement or supervisory authority. They don’t define performance by online presence, but by results. The most important prerequisite for this, especially in the beginning: dividing work into clearly manageable tasks and clearly addressing goals, timings and responsibilities.
From a social point of view, it is very important in times of social distancing that teams stay in contact: A common daily (video) standup proves – according to our own experience – to be valuable in terms of cohesion and work effectiveness. Young teams in particular need these collective moments to gain security and reduce the fears that should not be underestimated.
2nd dimension: infrastructure and tools
Experience from our customer projects – currently and also in pre-corona times – shows that three key areas are important for IT:
- Content storage – digital solutions for the joint processing and centralization of files in the cloud. This means that every employee (and, if necessary, the customer) can always access important documents. Here at Nunatak we use Box, a cloud storage service in which documents can be collected and shared centrally. Changes to files are displayed in real time.
- Project management – i.e. tool-based digital collaboration, virtual mapping of projects and visualization of open / completed tasks. We rely here on Asana, a centralized tool for planning projects, to-dos and responsibilities. This enables maximum transparency about the project progress.
- Communication – internally in a team as well as with customers and partners. For this we rely on Slack. The tool brings together the communication between individual project teams and the entire company. In addition, diverse tool integrations are possible – e.g. from Asana
3rd dimension: integration
Remote work will entangle private and work life even more closely than has been the case so far. This brings new stakeholders into play: roommates, family members, neighbors. At the moment, it is primarily parents who need special consideration. But even when schools and daycare centers reopen, employers should keep in mind that employee needs change.
With a view to the mutual accessibility of their teams, they will also have to change. Addressing someone across the table quickly and informally becomes more difficult. Even chats in collaboration tools such as teams or Slack cannot keep up here. However, some processes should make this more effective – because we can work more concentrated. Just one example of many where remote work can improve the working world of tomorrow!
The biggest question marks in terms of integration are currently evident when it comes to labor law and occupational safety: just think of the insurance law obligations and everyone’s right to an adequate job.
Our conclusion: There are many challenges for teams and executives when it comes to remote work and many of them unanswered yet. However, the most important question has already been resolved. The question for alternatives, as there are none.