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What Data Can Tell Us About the Next Normal

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By now, the world has worked remotely for about half of 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we are starting to see a clearer view of the next normal beginning to emerge.
 
It’s hard to say when the world will be out of the proverbial woods, but companies are planning for the long haul. They are altering their operations to prepare for prolonged office closures and teams working remotely. The organizations that felt unprepared for this seismic shift are now struggling to catch up to the times. The good news is it’s not too late to transition for success in the next normal.
 
What the numbers show
We culled through PGi’s usage data since the start of the pandemic to paint a portrait of the typical organization’s response. Here’s what we found:
 
  • Usage has remained steady since rising in March, and teams have started to take much-needed breaks as the calendar turned to the summer.
  • In the beginning, organizations over-corrected and invited everyone to every meeting. But as virtual meetings have become more commonplace, they’ve reverted to how they used to operate: Not everyone needs to be invited to every confab.
  • Even as some offices reopened, organizations did not give up on virtual meetings thanks to social distancing requirements and staggered work hours. This trend is likely to continue for at least the rest of the year and into 2021 (and possibly beyond).
 
Teams have learned how to incorporate meetings
At the start of the outbreak, teams generally invited every colleague to every meeting. It quickly became apparent the pace wouldn’t be sustainable. While this approach kept teams busy, attending so many meetings hampered an employee’s ability to accomplish tasks. As I shared in an earlier article, many people working from home realized there was no point in many in-person meetings, according to The Harris Poll.
 
The same may be holding true for virtual meetings. It’s not the technology that is the problem; it’s the content and how people deploy solutions that often leads to a problem. No platform can help an organization overcome its inability to communicate, and the pandemic has acutely brought that notion front and center.
 
It’s more than work all the time
One of the apparent dangers that emerged amid the mandated lockdown is the potential for burnout. Some organizations were better than others at helping their teams balance their work and personal obligations.
 
With everyone confined to their homes, some organizations saw their employees as trapped, and they seemed to be on-the-clock 24/7. The shrewdest organizations knew to empower their teams to step away from the computer and take time off. Now that we’ve reached the doldrums of summer, some organizations that didn’t take that approach see their teams’ productivity starting to wane.
 
Plan now for what’s next
I’ve written a lot about leadership and the qualities that make an effective leader. It should go without saying that true leaders shine in times of crisis. New leaders will emerge from the pandemic, while others will fade because of their inaction or inability to navigate their organizations through this crisis. As companies normalize their operations in the wake of COVID-19, they must honestly assess their efforts to date. They need to do so with a critical eye towards the future.
 
Whether we want to admit it or not, we will face another challenge in the future. So, even though some may have struggled with this latest hurdle, the real lesson is to prepare for tomorrow’s uncertainties.

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