Written By: Michael Hughes, Senior Account Manager
COVID-19 has forced organizations to enact – or rapidly create – remote working procedures for all staff. Not only are knowledge workers now conducting their work from home but so too their managers. And their managers – all the way up to the CEO level – face at least two significant categories of challenges that are necessary to overcome in this new ‘distributed work for all’ model.
On the Technology front, many organizations were not ready to pivot so quickly and thoroughly. Even those that already had some of the right tools in place found themselves quickly reaching and then testing the limits of those applications.
Chief Executive of CISCO – developer of one of the leading video conferencing systems used regularly – is on record as saying that “None of this technology was designed to support the entire world working from home…The Webex teams haven’t slept in days.”
The Chief Executive of Slack, another go-to system in these times, realized this was precisely the wrong time to have unreliable internet service at home. During San Francisco’s shelter-in-place orders, he found just one room with a connection good enough to conduct a company video conference: the laundry room!
Modified Work Culture
Another challenge organizations are grappling with is how to deal with a newly modified work culture. Chief executive of Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, has said that is “a Miracle You Can Run a Company This Way.”
There is an inherent irony at the heart of this new situation we find ourselves. In the environment where many feel most comfortable – at home – some now find themselves very much out of their comfort zones. The factory model no longer exists. Managers can’t walk the floor, see how people are, or check in on what they are doing.
Instead, managers will need to find new ways to achieve similar ends. For many knowledge workers – and Daniel Pink – this might be liberating and motivating, empowering info-pros with greater autonomy to complete their tasks in their own time and surroundings. For others, it is a nightmare! And for those who are unsure, some will find that they like working in a distributed team.
Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, has said that “people who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”
Can we Recreate the Office?
Regardless of how this all ends, dealing with the next few months is the most immediate concern. It seems you can’t reasonably expect to recreate the office online and achieve all the same results.
Matt Mullenweg is the founder of Automattic — the company behind WordPress. Matt has identified five levels of distributed teams, and it seems that many organizations do start at what he calls Level 2 – trying to recreate the office online. This could be sub-optimal for info-pros, and if you find yourself at this level, you may “still have a long way to go.“
Whichever level you find yourself at, it is essential to do the best with what you have.
If the C-Suite of the biggest tech companies on the planet are finding it challenging right now, what hope is there for the rest of us?!
Think back to the Summer Olympics of 2016 in Rio for inspiration. No one expected the Japanese men’s 4x100m relay team to achieve much. Few of their competitors or the watching public knew the names of the four athletes. But, when all was said and done, they left Rio with an Olympic silver medal around their necks, an Asian record of 37.60 in their pockets, and a raft of new fans.
Despite its surprise factor, Japan’s Olympic relay success did not come out of the blue. On paper, their team was not made up of the fastest runners. However, as a team, they worked smarter, perfecting their baton exchange technique to achieve an essential marginal gain and win vital seconds over their rivals.
How can info-pros work smarter with what we have, to achieve great results working remotely?
Achieving More While Working Remotely
For a start, we can position ourselves as a vital resource to our colleagues. Your portal (library homepage) being visible and set as a central and crucial source of information will help. Set up Collections for your teams/practice groups/departments. Catalog more electronic content and serve up pointers from your portal to content held outside of it to support your users and get more use of your service.
Be the Resource
Now, more than ever, people need ready access to the information they require for their daily work. Be that resource in your organization. Make it easy for people to find what they need. Take this rare opportunity to clean house and attend to those tasks that might not ordinarily get looked at but are essential nonetheless – we have a ready baked workflow to help you with this here.
And hopefully, you will be able to do all of this from somewhere more comfortable than your laundry room!