The Pandemic is slowly receding with the vaccine roll-out in most parts of the globe, and a world where people spent more than a year hunkered down at home awaiting normal times, the reality might seem a little changed.
Those hoping for a return to office life as in pre-pandemic times are likely to be disappointed. The Pandemic showed another way of working successfully—away from the office premises tied to the desk.
Audio and video technology that was used as an addendum before, assumed center stage during this period. It showed that face-to-face interaction is not a necessity. Productive and efficient work can be carried out even away from office premises.
This new reality requires a shift in thinking for both the companies and employees. What is the fine balance that can be drawn?
Remote working for all its touted advantages comes with major downsides. The biggest being overwork, a fudging of personal and professional life boundaries, meeting fatigue and the added stress of dealing with passive-aggressive emails.
The semi-return to the office also poses several challenges, says Ashok Krish, global head of digital workplace at Tata Consultancy Services. “We are now all working in a mode that maximizes our individual productivity,” says Krish, “which means it becomes harder to co-ordinate and bring people together at the same time, being present and be willing to contribute.”
The response to work from home has been endless meetings on sometimes intermittent connections, which has added to the stress. Teleconferencing might have been the obvious answer to the crisis, but some other options need to be considered too.
Tele Tools beyond Zoom
There is Gather that allows teleconferencing within a 2D digital world resembling a bar or pub. People fade in and out depending on how close your avatar is to them; people sit around a table, giving the impression of a more private connected conversation.
Hubs, created by Mozilla, offers a similar experience in 3D, with more customizable avatars and more expansive scenery. There is also a scene editor for people willing to create more detailed offices.
Facebook also announced a free VR app called Horizon Workrooms in August. This features an avatar creation system, allowing users to interact with each other in the form of cartoon-like characters.
These tools allow one to do video game-like world building where you can connect with your colleagues in an avatar form. The stimulated in-person experience can go a long way in helping stay connected.
Beyond making innovative use of tools and techniques for connected interactions, managers now need to develop skills to maximize the effectiveness of hybrid working, according to Krish. “The single biggest additional skill every employee seems to require right now is a digital dexterity.” This means understanding not only your skills but also other areas that are digital in nature and adjacent to your core responsibilities.
Companies will now be looking for multi-skilled employees. It is no longer enough to be an expert in your field. One needs to understand associated digital skills—both hard and soft. Tech savviness, along with expertise in communication and collaboration, is what companies will be looking for.
The Pandemic has forced people to work from diverse places in different time zones, which means widely scattered teams trying to stay connected and streamline workflow. This is possible through open and constant collaboration and sharing of the work done.
Tech tools have their place in facilitating this distant working, but what makes this distant work possible is constant collaboration and building of work relationships through the ether.