Unprecedented Business Environments
Though pandemics have occurred throughout history, they are an unprecedented event for modern business. Across the United States in mid-March, many businesses took the lead in requiring employees to work remotely where possible as COVID-19 accelerated across the world. Municipalities and state governments followed shortly thereafter. At that time, we were watching an influx of new cybersecurity risks and our very own Kris Hurtado shared ways to keep cyber threats at bay when workers are remote.
As we collectively move towards Fall, and some areas are beginning to see signs of the spread slowing, the question becomes: How do we find ways to come back together in the office? We know the well-documented benefits of working together in-person: easier collaboration, faster decision-making, stronger company culture, among others. But how do companies get there from here?
Important throughout the shift to a remote workforce, communication has been a critical, key element. Distanced employees need clear and frequent outreach, as expectations that are easy and obvious when working together in-person can be missed or misunderstood via conference call and email. Having a consistent communication plan – ideally across multiple functions, such as HR, team managers, organizational leaders – can help ensure that the goals, expectations, and timelines for transitions are clear. This focus on communication will continue to be critical in the transition back to the office.
Keeping In Touch
Our Ascend team lead our initial work-from-home communications with daily/weekly messages from our COO – blending notes about our team and clients with information about the pandemic, and working in some lighthearted personal notes, as well. More recently, our HR team has sent messages outlining our company procedures when returning to the office, along with the building enhanced safety and cleaning measures. Additionally, communication about when team members are planning to be in the office can help jump-start a pattern of voluntary attendance.
Whether your team is entirely remote still or beginning to return to the office ensuring communications and the technology that support collaboration are available is a topic Corey Dean, VP of Operations at Ascend Technologies, wrote about, highlighting important considerations for business continuity and more.
The sudden shift to a distanced workforce has required flexibility and creative thinking from employers and employees. That will continue, and likely increase, as folks look to return to the office.
As of this writing, there is a broad question on whether schools will resume in-classroom learning. Organizations looking to structure a thoughtful return to the office will need to take this fluid situation into account, and potentially adjust in-office expectations or schedules based on the age of children, childcare options, the schedule of working spouses.
Additionally, as the pandemic fluctuates in various areas of the country, this will impact whether offices can remain open or must re-close to help manage the spread. These changes will also need to be absorbed by clients, which can have rippling impact to our business and our team. Having a variety of flexible options to serve the business, as well as address individual needs, will help organizations respond quickly and minimize impact to clients.
At Ascend, our managers and supervisors work closely with team members to understand individual challenges, as well as help convey shifting client needs due to the pandemic. Some creative, flexible solutions have included: updating work calendars with spouse meetings, where the individual will be required to provide childcare during those appointments; or temporary adjustment of responsibilities to accommodate remote execution of usual on-site client activities. With the gradual return to work, we anticipate continued need for flexibility in schedules, responsibilities, and areas of focus.
Not long ago, Fred Goetz shared insights on how to develop adaptability among employees. This is the perfect time to consider how we can build more resilient and engaged teams no matter where they do their work.
If the pandemic highlighted anything for businesses, it was that mutual support between employee and employer could yield positive benefits in the face of extreme situations. For organizations that had limited deployment of remote-capable technologies, IT teams and vendors collaborated to solve this for team members. People worked together to cover shifting teammate schedules and responsibilities. Organizations honored essential workers. Support between organizations and employees will continue to be needed along the road back to the office.
Our Ascend leadership has identified and communicated a host of resources aimed at supporting our team now, as well as with the shift back to the office. This support has included parking fee reimbursement until public transit can be used again, services to assist with tutoring and childcare, as well as individualized support for team member circumstances.
Overall, the return to the office will look different across different companies and industries. However, by partnering together with communication, flexibility, and support, companies and employees can successfully navigate this transition together.
If you’re looking for help with the transition back to the office as it relates to technology, cybersecurity, business continuity, remote workforce or application management feel free to reach out. Ascend can help you provide the best outcome for team and your business.
by Kristen Stenglein