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COVID-19 has moved up the timeline on digital transformation

Remote work and online business were always the future. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, that future has arrived early. Here's how your business can adapt. More people are now working from home than ever. Virtual meetings, online training, and fully-digital workplaces have quickly become the norm. Business is booming in the Software-as-a-Service industry, as countless organizations turn to the cloud to manage their distributed workforce.



This was inevitable.


I'm not talking about the pandemic, of course. COVID-19 is both terrifying and tragic, a debilitating, often lethal virus that's fundamentally changed how we live and work. I'm talking about the results in the business world  — the massive surge in digital transformation that businesses were forcibly made to confront.


The thing is, many of the trends we're now seeing as a result of the pandemic were always going to be the future. We were already slowly moving towards distributed work, for instance. In collaboration software developer Buffer's 2019 State of Remote Work Survey, for instance, 99 percent of respondents indicated a desire to work from home at least some of the time.


Hand-in-hand with that shift towards distributed work, we were also moving away from the notion of a traditional workplace. Thanks to collaborative online spaces, officeless companies are a very real possibility. And as we see further advancements in automation and networking technology, the need for anything other than minimal office space grows ever smaller.


The problem is that this shift was supposed to happen over the course of five or ten years. Not over five or ten weeks. The novel coronavirus moved up the timeline to an extent that nobody could have expected or predicted, and even now, ten months into the pandemic, some businesses are still having trouble adapting. Maybe yours is among them.


I will be blunt. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. There are more outbreaks in our future — many regions of the world are already experiencing a second wave or heading into another lockdown period.

This means that if you have not fully adopted distributed work, you need to do so immediately. I'm not just talking about hosting a Zoom conference every so often or requiring your employees to install Slack. Nor am I talking about virtual desktops and SaaS applications.


These are all things you should be doing already. What I'm talking about goes deeper. A complete cultural shift.

Here's how you can start working towards this:

  • Start with your leadership. Your corporate staff needs to understand that distributed work is here to stay. Your employees are not abusing the pandemic to work from home, nor will working from home reduce productivity. Ensure that everyone from the C-suite to middle management understands that the traditional work environment is, at least for the immediate future, dead and gone.

  • Get HR involved. It's easy to get in touch with the human resources department while in the office. Less so when you're working from home. Work with the HR professionals in your organization to build an online portal, and offer as many self-service options available to employees as possible.

  • Abandon the traditional workday. The 9-to-5 job has been on life support for years now. COVID-19 may well be the last nail in its coffin, and that's a good thing. While it's still reasonable to expect employees to be available for critical meetings, you should also embrace the flexibility that distributed work enables — including the fact that everyone will work at their own pace, and in their own fashion.

  • Focus on engagement. I'm not simply talking about having people regularly reach out to each other for wellness purposes. I'm talking about fostering a deeper connection. There are digital platforms that allow your business to host everything from board games nights to movie nights to concerts —explore them as teambuilding opportunities outside of the norm.

  • Find ways to promote company culture. This could be a weekly newsletter, virtual 'office hours' for leadership or regular forums hosted via a platform like Zoom.

  • Expand your hiring pool. A distributed workforce means that you no longer need to limit yourself to talent within your city, nor do you need to have people relocate. You can feasibly bring in talent from all over the world, to your great benefit.

No one expected the coronavirus pandemic to last this long, nor for it to create such disruption in the business world. At this point, however, it's here to stay. Remote work and digital workplaces are, for all intents and purposes, the new normal.

And we all need to adapt.


- PUBLISHED ON 30 MAR 2021 | BY BRAD WAYLAND

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