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Prioritize Data to Understand the Shifting Workplace


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If we learn anything from COVID-19, it shouldn’t solely be about what tools we need to collaborate but also how we interact with one another. The fact that the workforce is changing is already established. However, the real opportunity is to seize these pandemic learnings to evolve the workforce further and what it means to “work.”
While organizations and individual team members quickly adapted to the immediate change, it’s time to revisit the steps we took back in March and adjust for the long-term. Where we are today is vastly different than where we were six months ago, and what worked then may not work now.
Organizations have an incredible amount of data at their fingertips, and they should use it to improve the work experience. Not in a creepy, Orwellian way—in a way that benefits the team. But they need to do so transparently and by clearly defining how to use this data. Doing so will eliminate any stigma or uncertainty around the approach and secure the team’s buy-in.
There’s an app for that, but do we need it?
As soon as the mass lockdowns took effect, organizations implemented all sorts of tools and software to solve what they perceived as problems surrounding remote working. In reality, they opted for “form over function.”
Consider the programs the team is using. Are they necessary? Are they used because they improve productivity or because they are mandated? If it’s the latter, perhaps it’s time to explore more effective options. Organizations must look at how their teams use existing tools and understand what they need to be successful.
Too often, any solution is a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, it should tailor to the team’s needs. To understand this, perhaps organizations could collect some data themselves, whether in the form of an internal poll or a feedback form. Ask, and you shall receive, but don’t forget to act.
Is it time to meet in-person, or not?
Half of the respondents (50%) in a recent PwC survey said the principal reason they go into the office is to collaborate. In the era of social distancing, trouble collaborating is a real problem, as 39% in the same survey cited it as a reason for their lack of productivity. A common approach many organizations have employed to overcome these struggles is to schedule meetings. Not all meetings are bad, but when a team member’s calendar is full of nothing but calls, it’s impossible to accomplish essential tasks.
As a first step, identify how much time team members spend in meetings. Does the volume of meetings hinder the ability to be productive? Are there meeting alternatives? Perhaps we could have more one-off conversations rather than mass meetings, or maybe it’s as simple as scheduling a time to speak when there are no meetings. After all, a connected enterprise doesn’t require an active webcam to remain connected.
We need an element of human touch.
In the office, many unexpected interactions take place. We might bump into a colleague in the hallway or the break room and strike up a spontaneous brainstorm session. That doesn’t happen in the virtual world without some planning, which makes it decidedly unspontaneous. But, the approach can still be useful.
With workers from all kinds of generations working side-by-side, certain individuals may react differently to working remotely. Some adapted more quickly, while others may have struggled to adapt, but if we take a moment to connect as people, we can find ways to work more cohesively.
We’re not robots; not all time is work time.
A recent article in The New York Times titled, “How Quarantine Killed the Weekend,” revealed the worst-kept secret in the world today: “the line between the weekend and weekday has blurred.” Whether or not we want to admit it, we know that was the case at the start of this COVID-19 outbreak, and it still is for too many.
Because workers are stuck mainly at home with limited opportunities to travel, some bosses believe their employees are on the clock any hour of the day or night, leaving them free to work whenever. The unintended consequence of this approach is strictly burnout. In the “new normal” that is starting to emerge, workers will prioritize the work-life balance. Companies must respect and prioritize work-life balance, and they can help deliver it by analyzing the data and using it to empower their teams.
Much like how smart home devices revolutionized the residence, we need to embrace the intelligent office, prioritizing data to understand the shifting workforce and what its diverse needs mean to an organization. Only then can we truly work smarter, not harder.