There can be little doubt that COVID-19 has mobilised workforces in a way that hitherto would not have been possible. But whilst we should be proud of how we have all adapted; is business truly using technology in the most efficient and sympathetic way possible?
My conversations with clients across Plant Hire, Facilities Management, Distribution, Carrier services have revealed some consistent messages. People have never been as busy, and they have never had so many meetings scheduled within their respective diaries. Whilst some of this additional workload can be attributed to the redistribution of work from their furloughed colleagues, the question remains as to when productivity will ‘settle down’ in this ‘new normal’?
One customer indicated they use Skype for Business and Zoom for external meetings, plus Microsoft Teams for internal meetings. Our own firm uses Outlook, Teams, Yammer, Chatter and will soon bring in Fuze (upon which Teams will be made redundant); there are also numerous WhatsApp groups. It does feel as though there is a hierarchy of purpose developing between platforms. Teams is good for internal meetings; WhatsApp caters for more socially orientated discourse and Zoom allows large groups to virtually congregate.
Senior leaders have taken the opportunity to connect with their employees in ways they never have before; the CEO of Unilever has taken the opportunity to start addressing the whole of his global workforce, giving weekly updates via video to make the whole company feel more connected. In fact, our own CEO Kester Scope provides a weekly video update which has undoubtedly brought all of us in the Odgers Berndtson family closer together.
So far so good, but there also needs to be caution in terms of recognising that the blurring of home and work life can take its toll. Deloitte launched a refresh of its report on mental health in the workplace in January this year. Whilst there is good news about investment in mental health support, it also signalled that mental-health related presenteeism is on the rise. Clearly this research was undertaken pre-lockdown so the question remains as to how numerous platforms will contribute further to this?
Brave leaders may be wise to recognise the need to streamline their platforms in order to further improve business performance, deliver better productivity and crucially help their staff manage their mental health. This will be seen as a pivotal time in industrial history and one which will define great leaders and their ability to create new operating models for the future. Our new virtual togetherness should be embraced, but not at the cost of mental health.