COVID-19 has initiated huge shifts in our ways of working and accelerated the process of digital transformation. Many businesses have had to reevaluate their systems and processes to adapt.
Do these changes signal a new era of work? Will remote working become the new norm? How do businesses who have recently moved online keep company culture alive?
Transcript for Video:
Researchers, businesses and innovators around the world are putting technology to work to alleviate the effects of the global COVID-19 health crisis. Advancements in technology and social media apps are playing an important part in limiting the loss of life caused by this pandemic.
Templar Wales is an expert on improving meetings, interactions and workspaces using technology. Templar now joins me via skype for more on this discussion. As a start, I read an article this week that was saying that productivity is actually on the rise while people are working from home and using technology to enable them to work from home. What do you make of that? Is that surprising? I know people like myself need an actual office to work from – I’m definitely not as productive when I’m at home.
There’s definitely mixed feedback. A lot of people are becoming more productive because they aren’t sitting in traffic for two hours a day, they are at their desks for a lot longer and there are fewer interruptions – so for a lot of people, they are more productive. The opposite is also true – a lot of people are finding that they are having too many Skype and Zoom calls. There’s a thing called Zoom Fatigue, which is very real – it’s draining and exhausting and they might not be as productive as they usually would be.
It’s great to have all this technology and the fact that you and I can interact like this, instead of you being here in the studio, sitting here in front of me. But I wonder about human interaction – there is always a pro and con to everything, and I tend to worry about the fact that this isn’t very personal. It’s so impersonal to be having these kinds of interactions and not physically seeing people.
It’s true to a certain degree. For a lot of people, they may feel more comfortable not having to go out and physically be in front of a room full of people. If you’re having a meeting with 25 or 30 people, in a way, a lot of introverts might feel more comfortable this way. But you definitely lose the non-verbal communication – the ability to pick up on people’s body language.
Do you think companies will see this, moving forward, as a cost-cutting measure – in terms of not having to rent out office space; not having to pay big prices to have corner offices in some peak area in Johannesburg, for example, because you’re going to have less people coming into the office. Do you think that some companies are sitting back and going, “Hey – we might be able to cut costs with these Skype meetings and MS Teams platform that we’re now getting used to.”
Absolutely, I think that there’s a bit of both. I think we are going to go through a transition phase, where you do have people saving on rent and travel costs. But, for a while, those costs will be moved into paying for people’s bandwidth at home, paying for additional equipment and slowly getting out of rental agreements – perhaps they will only be needing space for 50% or 75% of their workforce, rather than their full workforce. There has been a growing trend of remote working, and this is a pushback trend moving forward – I think that a lot of the work of the future behaviour has been accelerated and will not go back. From an economic point of view, a lot of people are being pushed out of their secure work and are entering the gig economy and working from home so that they’re working for 2 or 3 different clients as well.
You mentioned the fact that for introverts this might be a great thing, but how can companies use technology to strengthen company culture? Usually you would have something like team building… How do you enforce that kind of thing when we’re social distancing and aren’t really seeing each other. Is it possible for companies to use technology in some ways and how?
So that’s a very interesting thing that we talk about internally quite a lot. For a long time, culture has been this thing that CEOs are driving for, but in reality, culture is built on behaviour. So it’s actually a behaviour that we are trying to instil. So if you’ve got a team, it’s important to agree, as a team, what that behaviour is, what is your common purpose, what are you aiming towards, what are the outcomes going to be – plan with the team what the tools and behaviours are going to be. You’ve got diverse people within a team, so how do you make sure that all of their cultures, history and behaviour is included in that team culture that is then formed? Then build your tools around that; build your technology around what you’re trying to achieve as a team and what you’ve agreed upon as your team norms – that will govern your behaviour which will build your culture.