The Corona Workplace: from surviving to structuring

In the lockdown, organizations switched quickly – letting employees work online at home was the number one priority. Although the emergency solutions will function to run, I see a great need for optimization. The big question I keep hearing: how to make the virtual (emergency) workstations in your organization more effective, efficient maintenance and above all future-proof, ready for any subsequent Covid-19 golf?

Now that the world and our economy has entered ‘the new normal’ – better term: ‘new reality’ – it is time to replace the sandbags with real dikes. To upgrade the fast, durable ‘Ducttape solutions’. Now that you know that Corona-like scenarios can reoccur, an organization must ask itself: if we had prepared and devised this solution when we had time, what choices would we have made?

In the first weeks of the lockdown, I also saw how many organizations have set up their ‘home working mode’ with a lot of creativity and flexibility. The great thing about the urgency of this situation was that decisions were made at a rapid pace about matters for which a lot of time was normally taken. The success of that operation has enabled many companies to survive the lockdown. And although the new online workplace usually functions adequately under circumstances, it still has the character of an emergency Duct tape solution in many organizations.

In times of acute crisis – as you can call the first weeks of the lockdown – the solutions had something like placing sandbags in front of an approaching storm surge. On that moment it was a successful solution, in the emergency efficiency was not always the biggest concern at that time.

The main reason for this check and for possible investments is that virtual and online work will largely be the norm and will continue. Nothing is as permanent as temporary things. We have in four months forced learned to support programs to work together with colleagues and clients and advising behind a screen. In this position in my speech I would like to make a big compliment to our employees. I am proud of how they have played a crucial role in the development of home workplaces for our customers. The customer situation and questions put a lot of pressure on them, while they also had to work at home. Employees with children also fulfilled a part-time educational role.

Traditional managers had to face it all during the lockdown. Their belief that their employees are more productive and work harder as they monitor was very tempted. For them, the lockdown was a ‘Crash course in Letting go for Managers’, because now they had to manage the output of employees instead of being in the office. Some have taken this up a notch by asking their employees a simple question, “How can I help you do your job well?” If you ask me, this period has shown that employees can also work productively at home. When people in the office without a supervisor do not contribute, they won’t do it at home.
I must make a note that it for any sales – and relationship manager is challenging to remotely, without the handshake and face-to-face contact, the confidence to win potential customers. If you are close to your customer want to create solutions, it is more difficult at a distance. This question that is not answered in just four months, there is more time needed. Furthermore, I do not want to idealize working online, because there are also disadvantages. Many office workers now like to go back to business because they have noticed that the working day at home never ends. In your head, closing your laptop is something different than driving home and enjoying the break from work in a traffic jam.

The key question: are the emergency measures for working company-wide online adequate even after the lockdown? This answer is clear in many organizations: certainly not. The challenges lie in many areas such as speed, manageability and availability of all applications. In the rush of the lockdown, performance wasn’t the most important thing – we were able to keep working, that was the priority.

The layout of the virtual workplaces also made clear at many companies that by no means all processes were fully digitized. This meant that employees had to return to the office regularly during the lockdown.

Then there is also the maintenance. If a company realized five types of virtual workspaces at the start of the lockdown, each with different application sets, then all five will require their own maintenance, including monthly updates from Microsoft, among others. All of these manually crafted types will eventually grow apart without automation, with all the support challenges and user frustrations that come with it. Automatically rebuilding the different types of workplaces with the latest updates based on recipes by means of tooling every month is important to give users a quality workplace in the future.

In addition, you must not forget that the home-working employee starts to set requirements for availability and performance. In survival mode, everything was okay, if working from home is increasingly becoming the norm, then it has to work, he says. In March, a less smooth login may have been acceptable, but now the slowness is starting to cause dissatisfaction.

And also consider the costs. Organizations have put in the last period everything to their processes going on and their turnover levels to hold. In the meantime, they have often incurred a lot of costs in organizing their virtual workplaces. Costs that – if they do not intervene – will continue considerably. If you keep doing what you did now, you will keep what you already had.

In short: after the temporary solutions – the sandbags – it is now time for structural quality and efficiency, to better and cheaper manageability. And above all: making it structurally better. In practice, this means, for example, that the updates for different application sets can be rolled out automatically, at the push of a button. Organizations can also do more to proactively monitor the virtual workplaces and pay more attention to a good user experience.

My advice: step out of the survival phase and work on structural solutions for management, with a longer shelf life and lower total cost of ownership.

Many directors and entrepreneurs are share my thoughts: it is not going to be the way it was. Virtual working has received a boost, that spirit does not go back into the bottle. A new short-term lockdown can still not be ruled out. In a while this virus may reappear, we may even have to deal with another virus. It is wise to prepare your organization for this and to have additional resistance built up. No organization can be made fully Corona-proof, but Corona-ready should still be the new standard.

Chris van Werkhoven, CTO Login Consultants