The reinvention of normal at work

There are key activities and those leading them at the heart of the changes happening at work as a result of the pandemic. Some are quick to adopt them and others not. Then there are those that will unfortunately not survive. Activities focus on events, remote work and learning.

The fast, the slow and the out of business

Speed of response and inherent elasticity will determine how well an organisation does and what path it follows out of the pandemic. Some will also be fortunate in that they find themselves on the right side of fate. The pandemic has handed them a golden opportunity because they are in an industry that benefits from the changes it forces. The need to pivot and reconfigure the business for them will be minimal. Others will have spent time building the capability and will pivot quickly to be able to compete on the new playing field.

Mr. Nadella sees the world going through three phases during the pandemic. The first is simply responding to the immediate impact through office closures, cost cuts and the like. Then comes recovery, which is already underway in many places, and will be more like a “dial” than a “switch.” He said, “There will be lots of movement of the dial, back and forth.” In the “reimagining” phase, innovations born of necessity during the previous two phases will emerge, like remote control of manufacturing processes, A.I. bots helping diagnose patients and more effective distance-learning technologies.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft positions it thus.

Organisational and industry attributes and response strategies aside, there are some activities that are becoming the hallmarks of the new normal. Here is a list of the ones I think are hot at the moment and includes who I think are driving them.

Events

Microsoft are leading in this area (disclosure). When all others have cancelled, Microsoft went ahead with its Build 2020 developer conference, hosting a completely virtual event. It’s early days but it has been deemed a success.

As captured in the last article linked to above, it has a lot to do with Microsoft’s use of its own technology for many years now. Ignite is a good example where I have attended both in person and virtually before and I can say the experience at both has been excellent. Here are last year’s on demand sessions – judge for yourself.

Microsoft Teams Live Events technologies are just a latest iteration that have been used and have evolved over many years. Now they are accelerating and being used by Microsoft leaders and others (BP CEO), internally as well as for external events. Here I’ve shared how I worked with a customer on one of their events last year: Microsoft Teams Live Events and the new channels of work.

If you are facing the challenge, here is a good “how to” from The Information (sign up required): Your Corporate Event Has Gone Virtual. Here’s How to Make It Work.

Remote work policy and views

Satya Nadella (Microsoft) has diverging views than most although he has also been more flexible with employees than most. His point is to “be on the lookout for what is lost” by moving permanently to a remote work orientation. I must say, having much experience with remote work over the last few years because of my global role, now that I am forced into it, I really do miss the contact and physical connection to colleagues and customers.

Great interview of Satya Nadella by Walter Isaacson

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) wants to be “the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale” (great interview by The Verge). He is firmly in the camp of moving to a permanent remote work set up for at least half of all employees.

But it was Jack Dorsey (Twitter) who was the first of the well known big tech firms to make work from home a permanent option for staff. He has gone all in.

Matt Mullenweg (Automattic) is still my favourite CEO on this topic. I have quoted him many times before and he refers to it as distributed work, a model and practice he has been applying with his employees for many years now. He went fully remote long before it was fashionable.

And the non tech firms have jumped on board too, banks like Goldman Sachs, amongst others. Media companies too and many others.

Learning

Just this last week I completed an intense 3 day virtual training course, a course normally run onsite over 4 days, now fully remote and condensed into 3. It was run with a group of about 15, split up into 4 teams.

Some of the work shifted to pre-work and in its entirety, it was managed using Microsoft Teams. The workflow below describes more or less how we went about participating in the course with the instructor.

Running virtual workshops using Microsoft Teams – click to enlarge
Reasons for wanting
to leave your job.
Click to enlarge

Considering that learning and training is still one of the most powerful reasons for driving employee loyalty (see pie chart – research conducted by Josh Bersin with LinkedIn), this activity is not going away. It’s just going virtual and remote. Consider also that learning in the flow of work as a new paradigm driving the way people learn (also based on research by Josh Bersin), is predicated on new social collaboration tools. Tools like Microsoft Teams.

Teams set-up

I can attest to the tools efficacy. The training I just attended was in no way impaired by being virtual and remote. Quite the opposite. The ability to collaborate with team mates in preparation for the course was seamless. For the course itself we jumped onto Teams Meetings in a General channel with the whole cohort, supplemented by break out session in other channels for team work. Check out the thumbnail of my Teams set-up, I was in Team 3 and arranged channel views according to my needs.

Other recent Future of Work posts on this site:

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