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Adapting to the New Virtual Workplace

January 6, 2022

Most top executives are frustrated in their attempts to stay ahead of the COVID pandemic curve that keeps weaving. Our Firm’s mission has become even more vital – to provide solutions to our clients to stay compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape.

Among the many lessons the international pandemic has taught us, is that we must plan the best way to deal with the constant change in the way we work. The new virtual workplace is here to stay in one form or another. Let’s explore the communication challenges we face, to ensure our employees are effectively mentored and advancing in their knowledge and development.

A Seismic Change for the Physical Office

This has been a defining moment for a different kind of working – one where employees eschew commuting five days a week, and employers need to adopt to this new permanent dynamic.  Innovation is a rigorous process and transitions can be challenging.

There are critical questions we employers are beginning to face:

    • We discovered work can be done from different types of environments. How do we build relationships in different platforms, whether they are physical or virtual?
    • How do you maintain your prior office culture?
    • How does this impact the job interview?
    • How best to plan onboarding and orientation?
    • How to optimize meaningful moments?
    • How do you encourage suggestions and innovation? Do you need to be together for those sparks to occur?
    • How do you encourage serendipity and inspiration with remote work?
    • What is a staff meeting – is it a mix of small talk and the work assignments?
    • What can you substitute for the chance encounters in the hall or breakroom?
    • How to best collaborate on Zoom?
    • Are mentoring programs still valuable? How are they managed?
    • How to deal with Zoom fatigue?
    • Soft skills are important – communication, relationship  building, dealing directly with clients, etc.  How do you effectively  impart these skills when you are not in the office on a regular basis?
    • What can you substitute for the former opportunity to silently sit in on a call?

How to Best Leverage Technology

It is best to define how and when we use our technology tools, and how we can  maximize our employee engagement opportunities.

  1. We need to think creatively  and redesign how we use our work tools.
  2. A hybrid world of working remotely several days of the week is just the beginning of the answer; it must be carefully planned with intentionally designed communication avenues.
  3. How to collaborate effectively with staff (especially new employees) when working remotely. We don’t want them to feel ignored, but even more than that, we want them engaged in the process.
    • Employers need to figure what the structure looks like.
    • What rituals are important to keep. When working remotely when to phone and when to Zoom?
    • We’ve discovered that one-on-one Zoom meetings often resonate better than phone meetings  – whether it is with staff or with clients. There is something way more personal and meaningful when you look at your colleague’s reaction and they can see your expressions and delivery.
    • We should look at the best working hours for the “at home” time, retaining borders of core business hours, while allowing for flexibility employees may want.
    • It is good to manage “off hours” communication which can lead to burnout. If working some “off hours” is beneficial, try to schedule emails for regular business hours.
    • We need to recognize that isolation can easily take place in remote learning as new employers adjust to the intensity of the virtual mode of constant communication. Be sensitive to new employees’ needs for establishing protocols for  communication with peers and their manager.

Feedback is Critical

Feedback is especially  challenging when working remotely and re-affirms that an employee is on the right track.

    • Be more strategic.
    • Be clear.
    • Use sensitivity – recognize that employees have chronic stress due to COVID fatigue.
    • Start with general questions: “How did that project work out for you?”
    • Offer positive remarks first, “You compiled a very good summary. Now let’s take it to the next step. Let’s discuss how to get there…”
    • If you are not sure if your staff member “got it”  then state, “Let’s review the takeaways to make sure we are both on the same page.”

2022 – A New  Opportunity

These are just a few of the learning issues we are all encountering, as the “new workplace” evolves ever so quickly. To succeed in this altered universe, we need to be thoughtful, deliberate and creative.

We wish everyone continued success for 2022, as the New Year creates opportunities for all of us to explore how to best manage our organizations in the new world of the workplace.

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