And Then What? Business After Covid-19.

Yellow road sign that says "Change ahead"

And Then What? Business After Covid-19. Covid-19 has the world on the edge of its seat, holding its collective breath. It is safe to say that in my lifetime, I have not witnessed an extended period of time where humans around the globe are living in-the-moment quite as much as they are today.

I’m as guilty as anyone. I checked four different websites yesterday to get the latestdata on where the virus is spreading, a topic that is on my mind hourly. I stopped at the grocery store five times last week to pick up a handful of things I realized I might want to have in the event of a quarantine. The top of my prioritized task list isnow inundated with things I need to do today…not tomorrow, or next week. Like many of us, I have fallen into the habit of focusing almost exclusively on what I can affect in the next 30 minutes while back-burnering everything else.

Global usage of social media, the ultimate in-the-moment platform, has gone through the roof. I’ve never been a heavy social media user, but over the past 60 days my usage has probably quadrupled. The need to feel connected and get instant access to the people we care about is amplified when our future seems uncertain, especially when there is little we can actively do to impact what happens next. In short, there is a universal hyper-focus on the short-term, because the details of the long-term future are not well-defined.

Time to shake the tree, take a step back and get some perspective. That’s what I told myself this morning after realizing that over the past couple of weeks I had lost my focus on long-term planning both in my professional and personal life.

While its unclear how far off the light at the end of the tunnel actually is, we have tokeep reminding ourselves it is definitely there. In some number of months from now we will take control of this thing. Life will start to slowly normalize again, and we’ll have to pick up where we left off before it all started. There will be a lot of catching up to do, and it is likely that we’ll be catching up in an environment that will look and operate completely differently for most businesses.

I’ve been asking colleagues whether they think we’ll see any permanent changes tocorporate culture, particularly in the technology industry, following a global recovery from Covid-19. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming and consistent response is that this pandemic will prove to be a wake-up call for companies to get serious about building the infrastructure needed to better support a remote workforce.

Does this mean we’ll all be working from home in 2021? No. I, for one, enjoy the types of organic, spontaneous social interactions that aren’t (yet) achievable over video conferencing, chat or e-mail. But it certainly does point to the fact that a large percentage of the work force can work as effectively, or even moreso, at home as they can in the office. There are even financial benefits of requiring less office space to support more of a co-working model where employees can come in when they need to, and work from home the rest of the week. A new model will benefit everyone, even if the transition may look a bit daunting at the moment.

To be clear, I’m not evangelizing for distributed teams for all. For some companies they work great, and for others they are a non-starter based the need to access equipment and tools not storable at home. But I am a believer that in many cases, there is a significant benefit to offering a well-supported work-at-home option for some portion of the employee population.

This isn’t just about giving every employee a monitor and the ability to schedule video conferences. Instead of creating a remote working environment that is barely on-par with the in-office experience, this is an opportunity to tap into the scale that digital communication and collaboration give us. It’s time to start planning ahead now, leveraging digital solutions, and building new ones that are focused on increasing the effectiveness of distributed teams. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the urgency of near-term solutions to keep our businesses running today, we also have to force ourselves to reserve some time to plan for what we’ll do once it’s all behind us.

Let’s take this time to drive long-term innovation that will position our teams to hit the ground running at an all new speed. The workforce of the future will undoubtedly look quite different than it does today. Getting two steps ahead now on how we’ll support this new work environment will help us all get back up to speed quickly so we can resume, and even accelerate growth.

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