A year ago, on March 14th, we packed up the car with our two kids, a week’s worth of clothes, a month’s worth of toilet paper (remember that insanity?) and left Boston for Vermont. What we thought would be a short stay on my husband's family farm, is now, a year later, us living in Vermont full time and working remote side by side from our new home there. When I open my eyes every morning, the same thought almost always pops up: “Did that $#!T really happen?”
This month marks one year since so many businesses globally made the shift to remote work due to COVID-19. In a recent study, 78% of executives agreed that remote collaboration and flexible work is here for the long haul. Companies will take the lessons learned from this past year to build a long-term hybrid work model. Here are a few things the last year has taught us.
Don’t overload calendars with video meetings
Not every meeting needs to be a video meeting. Do your employees, teams, and colleagues a favor and take the time to think about which meetings require video and which do not. Like most organizations, we adopted a video-first approach at the beginning of 2020 at Fuze, which made it challenging to find a healthy meeting balance and to avoid video fatigue and burnout. Throughout the year, we shifted our strategy to prioritize certain meetings with the camera on, including 1:1 conversations and team meetings, and identify which meetings can make sense for turning the camera off, like large presentations, which has helped employees find more balance while working remotely.
We’ve also instituted No Meetings Wednesdays, where we all take a collective break every Wednesday morning to get uninterrupted work done and recharge from video fatigue. At the manager level, we’ve model the behavior of blocking our calendars to take breaks throughout the day; it’s so important to get up from the computer and do something, be it a walk with the dog, or a drive to grab a coffee, anything that can in some small way recreate the frequent breaks that we all took in offices without even realizing it (snack wall anyone?).
Optimize technology for the long term hybrid workforce
The last year has taught us that flexible work is just as effective as being in the office and that the need for employees to all be in the same physical location has diminished. At the same time, we’ve heard that employees want flexible in- person office time for networking and collaboration when desired. This hybrid demand requires flexible frictionless communications solutions that enables workers to seamlessly switch between chat, calling, and meeting, while also moving from desktop to mobile devices throughout the day. We’ve all experienced the frustration of which tool to use when, lags in video conferencing, or poor audio quality. Leaders will invest in a few critical digital work hubs across the organization, and a long term investment in a reliable communications solution is critical to retaining workers in the hybrid model.
We’ve regularly been in each other's homes now for a year. We’ve gotten to know roommates, pets, spouses, and children. Living through a global crisis together has allowed us to open up to our coworkers about other struggles as well and share more of our whole selves than ever before. We cannot go back. We must move forward in this new model that starts with the whole human and then gets to the work at hand. Great leaders will continue to provide flexibility not just in where the work gets done, but in when the work gets done to allow workers the ability to do their best work and lead their best lives.
The last year has taught us a lot about the power of flexible work, and it’s essential to take these lessons into the new year as we shift to a hybrid model where flexibility will remain at the forefront of the future of work.