The world has never been more united in fighting a common foe than it is today when facing COVID-19-. After almost a year and over 1 million deaths, we are starting to make progress. Socially, countries are opening borders. Financially, businesses are beginning to recover. The new normal is the normal now. The question is: going forward, will this normal sustain without disadvantaging us? Or do we still have more homework to do?
The year 2020 is about to end in a matter of days and almost everywhere around the globe, people are prepping for the next year – a new set of hopes and expectations. But before a list of new resolutions is made, a kaleidoscope of reflection traditionally precedes. And when it comes to 2020, oh there is a lot to put on the table.
The world has seen plenty in the months that constitute this year. A change of regime, the sudden death of some global icons, and of course – the elephant in the room – a pandemic that has shut international borders and caused worldwide panic. It sounds grim, but the silver lining is that the world is surviving. Particularly for the COVID-19 issue, a new vaccine is in development and it is claimed to be 95 percent effective. Although the likelihood of the new vaccine to eliminate the virus once and for all is still questionable, it represents most certainly hope. Good news to close the year and even more promising news start a new one.
Despite the hopeful insight, the next year will be like no other as there have been changes that might have been irreversible. People have adapted to new ways of life in a way that makes returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle difficult if not impossible. Even when the life-threatening aspect of Covid-19 has been minimized, or better yet – neutralized, only a small percentage of the population is keen to do things like before face masks were a necessity and a staple product.
That being said, schools and offices will need to adapt to suit the need of the general public. In other words, going forward education and corporate life requires a few practical adjustments to survive. In the context of corporate L&D, here are some of the things that need to be addressed to prevent saturating workforce and ensure progressive performance.
One of the rapidly increasing trends that is observable throughout the globe is the steady hike of video-calling interface. From Google to Zoom, Skype to Ding, people are now provided with a vast array of options to connect with others for business purpose. From the platform’s standpoint, this is gold. The more the users, the more money that the company earns. From the user’s standpoint, this is a solution. When going out can lead to slow and painful death, staying home and carrying on with the business via webcam makes perfect sense.
But for how long?
How long does it take until online conference starts to lose its essence? What does it take to prevent content delivery from looking dull? Can this new way of doing business sustain a longer run?
In the early stages of the offline-to-online transition, some people have reported to feel exhausted by the video-conference routines. Zoom fatigue – that is how the National Geographic and BBC named it. Unsurprisingly, the term is not exclusively used for these tools. Users of other platforms have reported similar symptoms and it begins to sound increasingly worrying.
Continuous virtual interaction takes the toll on human brain as it involves multiple tasks to carry out. Usually, these interactions are limited to a small screen showing only the individuals face and shoulders. Therefore, other non-verbal cues are almost invisible under these circumstances. The problem is, as a social creature, it is only natural for human beings to communicate also with other cues than facial expressions. Due the lack of interpersonal interaction in virtual meetings, it is difficult to identify whether the other is ‘fully’ paying attention. So how do we prevent this burnout? Is reducing the number of virtual meetings a solution?
The Virtual Meeting Handbook
The key to prolonging the mojo of virtual conference is efficiency. In the first few months of this global pandemic, companies are racing to convert everything offline to online. This results in excessive amounts of virtual meetings, which in turn causes the aforementioned Zoom fatigue.
What is missing here is the fact that the new normal also encourages professional independence. Unlike in-office work which emphasizes on human interaction, working from home relies heavily on a person’s capability on finishing a task under minimum supervision. However, this does not mean that virtual meetings can be abandoned. There are numerous professional elements that require interaction, albeit virtual.
Therefore, L&D specialists should be able to see and translate this into a guideline on virtual meetings. Under what circumstances is it beneficial? What conducts should be deemed proper? The answers to those questions in a form of a handbook will certainly help the management to provide constructive virtual meetings and sustain business progression in the virtual office environment.
Furthermore, having a specific code of conducts serves double duty. Firstly, it eases burnout from having too many meetings to attend and too many people to address virtually. Secondly, in the context of L&D, it encourages the employees to develop themselves independently as more trusts are bestowed upon them.
Different Time Zone
The notion of less supervision can be translated into more freedom for the employees. Spatial freedom is one of the examples. The work-from-home practice allows employees to work a hundred miles away from the office as long as they deliver. This opens up new possibilities. What if, for example, employees can work halfway across the globe location independently? What are the risks? What are the benefits?
For starters, supervision can represent a crucial factor. But then again, COVID-19 has introduced us to virtual meetings and collaborations. If math and science can be taught virtually, what makes professional know-how any different?
As for the benefits, it certainly gives the employees a chance to enjoy their personal space, without taking a leave of absence. Allowing employees to return to their hometown during the work-from-home period can help them to achieve a better work-life balance, an element that is often missing in urban life.
Also, the remote working scenario opens access to worldwide resources that companies can include in their business. Recruiting employees from different parts of the world, if done right, can result in lower costs and higher gains – a rare occurring during the pandemic. Of course, this could lead to higher administrative efforts. However, there are already numerous outsourcing modes and providers that can help the process. The key is to ensure that the L&D department already possesses clear SOP to transfer the knowledge and groom the candidates to be the next reliable resources.
New Year, New Resolutions
When chapter of 2020 is closed by the end of December, it is expected that a lot of companies will see unprecedented numbers – mostly declining figures. The low business trend also hits the employees as most of them struggle with new way of doing business. Consequently, the year-end will be marked with numerous resolutions, hoping that the vibe will return to normal in the upcoming years.
The role of L&D specialists, in achieving this resolution, is to ensure that they can facilitate the new normal routines in a way that both, the company and the employees can gain the best out of it. It is only when the two parties are comfortable with the new way of doing things that progressive performance can recover.