Carol and I still walk 20+ miles with our puppies each week through downtown, and it’s strange to pass by closed stores and offices–on a walk with no destination leading to nowhere.
It’s really weird, isn’t it, to see the news coverage of major cities with empty downtown streets with nobody moving around? Everyone is thinking, “When and how will this end?”:
Is this the End of the World?
Several decades ago I read the iconic 1949 sci-fi novel, Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart.
The main character, Isherwood Williams, emerges from the mountains for find that most of the world population has died in a global pandemic. The story is about the tiny group that survived–and began to live in a post civilization world. Suddenly there was no electricity, water, police, military, healthcare–and no commerce.
Surprisingly, the first few years were relatively easy. The survivors scavenged in Walmarts, hardware stores, you name it. They had pretty much whatever they wanted. Most things were still available after the end of manufacturing.
Gradually as goods began to run out, people reorganized into tribes and became a hunter/gatherer society, hunting game with newly invented bows and arrows.
No, It’s not the End of the World, but It’s a New World
The 2020 Coronavirus is not the end of the world or the final chapter of civilization, unlike the novel.
Covid-19 cases and deaths will tragically continue to rise, but the experience of several countries give us hope that we’ll run the disease cycle–and we all pray for a vaccine–and once again we get the “all clear” signal to move about the world.
But make no mistake. Although it’s not the end of the world, we’re entering a new era and a new chapter in world history where we’ll need new skills and abilities to navigate. What we’re experiencing now is not “normal,” but a NEW NORMAL will begin to emerge unlike the past, and that “new normal has already begun to emerge.
Last week I asked in an email to you, our “Tuesday Community,” how you were adapting to working remotely, and about 100 of you responded. The responses were brilliant and insightful. Here are some initial insight on what you told us, and there will be many more posts to come using what you’ve told us.
Here is what we’re seeing, based on what you tell us:
- Virtual Remote Teams are not Just for this Emergency–they are Part of the New Normal. There are so many advantages to working remotely. Many of our Tuesday Community tell us they’ve been partially working from home for years.
Some regret the lack of face to face interaction–and others love they lack of interruptions! They feel that they are just as productive as ever at home as in an office setting. Many love losing the commutes–sometimes 30 minutes to an hour one way. Employers will increasingly see that they can reduce office expense with remote workers and the employees can slash the expense of commuting and gain in productivity.
- Technology Must Improve–and We Must Learn it. We’re all scrambling to upgrade, obtain, and learn to technologies and match them to office technology. Some are dealing with inadequate phone systems and dropped calls. Home bandwidth can fail to be adequate. Email transmissions can be slow and video conferencing can be challenging.
The key to working remotely is the video conferencing experience– how does it look and feel? It is worth it to become very competent in video conferencing technologies—this is no time to be a Ludite. Learning where to video from is critical, and how to put multiple people together to share information and screens.
Just a cheery note: Several people have said that children and pets are OK at meetings, but keep Zoom out of the line of sight with a family member stepping out of the shower! 🙂
The consensus choice of readers for video conferencing at this point is Zoom, and we plan to stay on that platform. Zoom was receiving lots of bad press last week for privacy and confidentiality issues and they seem to have responded. They, as you probably know, installed a password feature onto those who participate in conferences.
We’re staying on Zoom. In the last few years we’ve seen more issues in organizations that lose time, money, and productivity jumping to new platforms.
- Team Dynamics and Effectiveness Will be the Challenge. In some cases team members report they feel more connected to team members than before, because online they take the time to really check in on how everyone is doing. They take more time to find out about each other personally. Teams are doing virtual happy hours. Pet introductions are often now a part of the team process.
Yet many teams are struggle to have the same solidarity they experienced in face to face meetings. There is a lack of a sense of shared experience and a feeling of disconnectedness.
It is critical to our career survival and to the ability of our organizations to survive to bond together as a strong, virtual team. Many say that the technology is in place, but there is static on the connection like a sputtering cell phone conversation. We think that creating experiences shared by the team at the same time together is absolutely key.
The worst nightmare of an effective team is for someone to be crawling into bed at night and waking up at 10 am–with a few naps throughout the day We find little evidence that this is happening. Most team members are more inclined to never stop working than to abuse being at home. The bottom line for team productivity is metrics, and it is particularly important that productivity be measured in remote work scenarios.
- The Line Between Home and Office Will Continue to Blur. “Work/Life Balance is a term that is being instantly redefined. A high level Zoom call with a child on your lap is definitely part of the “new norm.” Work and child rearing are now simultaneous processes. Managing online children’s educations while managing a business team requires a new paradigm of family and work. It was always messy, and now it’s amalgamated.
Everyone agrees that we have to create structure for ourselves as we shelter at home–a time to get up, a schedule for ourselves and children if they are with us, a time to work, a time to quit, and a time to entertain ourselves.
Managing ourselves personally in a remote work home environment is the real elephant in the room. If we escape getting coronavirus but develop bad heath habits, we may have even a more serious ongoing condition One reader told me, “I’ve gained 5 pounds in this time.” I told her, “I have you beat! I’ve gained 6 lbs.!” although I had shed 3 of those pounds this week.
Our readers are binge baking lovely cakes and pies they post them on Facebook. Liquor sales are absolutely through the roof, and without a sense of schedule, “it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.” Call a family counsel and establish ground rules that everyone can live with.
Years ago I heard a story on NPR about a little boy that had cancer. He wrote a book during this period called, “A Child’s Book of Cancer.” The first line in this child’s book was, “This story ends well. . . . Carol and I despite economic disruption, fear for our family, clients, colleagues and friends, believe that this story ends well. But we have to, in great part, write our own endings. Be safe, live long, prosper, and serve!