It’s safe to say that no business owner was totally prepared for the massive impact of Covid-19 on a wide range of business functions. It has now been almost a year since the pandemic caused businesses to lock down and send employees to work from home. Business leaders and IT leaders were forced to confront a series of challenges for which there was no planning or processes already in place. Business leaders had to keep the business running. IT leaders had to keep IT running while implementing remote work setups for employees. All of this has lead to a “new normal” that continues to change and flex. Below are 5 lessons that Business leaders and IT leaders have learned from the pandemic so far.
Lesson 1 – Employees Working REMOTELY is Not the End of the World
Many small business leaders prior to 2020 were firmly against the idea of allowing employees to work from home or remote. When the pandemic hit, business leaders were forced to send a large percentage of their employees to work from home. There was a gnashing of teeth by business leaders worried that their employees would fail to do their job or be as productive while working from home. Well, it turns out that most employees are MORE productive while working from home, according to studies, as high as 47%.
Lesson 2 – It’s Amazing What IT can Accomplish With the Right Priorities
It turns out, if you give IT leaders and teams an overriding strategic mission (enable Remote Work for hundreds of employees, for example), and a clear deadline, IT leaders and teams can accomplish more than we ever thought possible in a short time. Overriding strategic missions and clear deadlines give IT leaders and teams the ability to say “NO” to routine or lower-priority IT requests. Kudos to all of the IT leaders and teams out there who accomplished the impossible by equipping, securing, and supporting a nearly 100% remote workforce.
Lesson 3 – Building & Maintaining Culture is Difficult in Remote Work Environment
Business leaders know that every business has a culture; it’s just some of them have culture that isn’t intentional. But how do you build and maintain culture with team building and other methods during a pandemic? Business leaders learned very quickly that culture isn’t just about snacks and foosball tables; it takes a lot more foster a connection between a company and its employees. It starts with setting a foundation of trust and safety (both physical and psychological). Hiring and onboarding new employees requires that new employees have all of the tools and resources to be successful in their role. Business leaders have to continuously communicate the mission, vision, goals, and core values of the organization, often by using the core values to make decisions. Another key for business leaders during a pandemic – make sure employees have time carved out to do meaningful work, and aren’t just stuck in meetings or replying to email or chat. And don’t forget the need for regular rituals that are team-oriented (huddles, virtual happy hours, etc.). And lastly, business leaders and their managers should be conducting regular one on ones with their direct reports, and ask those employees for feedback on what’s working and what’s not, which should lead to adjustments in how things are done.
Lesson 4 – IT PLANNING Projects Can be Done Quickly
No IT leader would normally commit to transitioning an entire workforce to a remote workforce in a period of 2-4 weeks. But that’s exactly what happened at the beginning of the pandemic. And guess what? Business leaders were generally thrilled with how quickly and smoothly the transition went. The key? IT projects that are planned to perfection generally can’t be done quickly, when you are planning for every contingency. So some IT projects can probably be done a lot quicker if they don’t have to be planned to perfection.
Lesson 5 – It’s All About People
The moment when an employee was on a Microsoft Teams meeting with their direct supervisor, and his or her child popped their head in front of the camera and blurted out an expletive, is the moment when you realize that most of us have the same desires, motivations, fears, and concerns. It’s fun to see people in their home environment, with their dog in their lap, or their fishing trophy hanging on the wall behind them. Getting to know your co-workers for who they are as people, celebrating the milestones, while commiserating over the hits that keep coming during a pandemic, allows co-workers and supervisors alike, to be more human. There’s a simple truth: people work harder for people they know and like than people that they don’t know or like.
It’s nearing the end of January, and Covid-19 vaccines are slowly being rolled out. Unfortunately, we don’t know how or when this will all end, but the truth is that Business leaders and IT leaders will be more successful in navigating the uncertainties ahead if they remember the lessons learned (or maybe rediscovered) during the pandemic.