While we pay attention to how successful remote work is — “the new reality” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — a question arises: How do we keep up with “organisational identity?”
A new reality
Until the advent of COVID-19, remote work was a useful tool for call centres, part-time employees, or specific services. Not long ago, we would hardly imagine that strategic areas would interact in a virtual way or that we would hold meetings on unavoidable issues with strict social distancing while also limiting the number of participants. It would have even been hard to validate remote board or shareholder meetings through virtual platforms.
While some companies already adapt their offices to more remote jobs and semi-attendance on weekly tasks, I have a lot of questions: What will happen to procedures manuals? How will we manage internal control in the near future? What about the archives? What about cloud security? Compliance? And if we move forward, how many issues will appear?
Are we really aware that this is not only about social distancing? What will be the real cost for organisations adapting to this highly uncertain future?
Challenges: present and future
Obviously, the bigger the company structure, the larger the task. It will not be the same for a small company versus a company with thousands of employees. It will also depend on products or services provided, how digitised processes are, and whether management is prepared.
For example, just a few months ago, a promotion came with a bigger office with a better view, a personal assistant, a company car, and more. How will we manage promotions in the near future? Are we ready for remote work measures? What will people want when thinking about future jobs: just money or remote work, free time, and nearby offices?
We were accustomed to closing deals while having lunch. We were accustomed to working with a personal assistant who reminded us of half our lives. For many people, their co-workers were friends or even family. The HR departments worked hard to build and strengthen teams. And now?
What COVID-19 means now
Many companies have high expectations about remote work. Companies invest “x” amount of money for “x” number of full-time employees during working days. Then they rotate them “x” days for the others. Some companies stopped renting buildings and began looking for smaller offices to reduce fixed costs. Employees expectations could be “x” savings in travel expenses, “x” in clothing, “x” in food, and more flex time. We have so many “x” variables.
Do we have any cost for companies and employees? What do we leave behind? There are so many issues that differentiate us and set us apart as we go that extra mile — the one for which we have fought for years, perhaps decades, to become who we are.
We do not only sell a product. We sell identity, a concept. How do we strengthen who we are?
And it is not about the company as an abstract entity. An organisation has its culture and identity, which is built day after day by its members, decisions, management styles, and history. There is a culture that identifies us.
Many companies make the difference with their interpersonal relationships. How do we build a team with 20 little squares on a screen? It’s not impossible, but it is difficult in many ways.
Many authors have written about the challenges of change and how to evolve successfully. However, there are differences between being flexible to change and adapting ourselves to an unknown future normal reality (COVID-19). Even though we don’t know the full context, we know we need a huge tool: For change to be accepted, it requires the involvement and commitment of every part of the company.
The pandemic situation put our companies in different positions: First, there are many standing by, waiting for the miracle of the vaccine and for everything to be as it was before (or as similar as possible). Then, there are others working on several scenarios (futurology). Additionally, there are others trying to build from ashes, applying their background knowledge for the future. Finally, there are others that, unfortunately, won’t make it.