In the first eight weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations fast-forwarded five years in their transformation to digital. But this rapid transformation also produced many negatives including meeting fatigue, burnout and a reduction in employee morale.
Today, many of you are asking, “What does the future of work look like? When will we return to normal?”
The short answer is there is no going back – we can only move forward. As IT professionals, you shoulder this transformation – helping humans adapt to new tools and technologies that enable them to be productivity no matter where they work.
I believe COVID-19 served as an accelerant to the digital transformation that we’ve been experiencing for the last several years. The pandemic resulted in large scale work-from-home mandates that IT groups had to learn how to support. It created a new era of hyper connectivity that resulted in workdays that are now 48 minutes longer even though commute times, for many, have been reduced to zero.
Couple the pandemic and its impact on work with the fact that IT teams must help five distinct generations of workers communicate, and it’s no wonder this rapid digital transformation has everyone in IT dog paddling to keep up!
Of course, as with any transformational change, how individuals and teams (looking at you IT group!) respond determines how effective that change is.
At AVI Impact, I talked about how the coronavirus changed the way we work, but more importantly, how to take advantage of our current state. Here are the highlights:
- The future of work is about rapid learning, unlearning + adaptation. During the pandemic, IT rapidly adapted by adjusting to the immediate and large-scale work-from-home model, and now must adapt again to support the workforce returning to the office in a hybrid environment. This will require IT to help employees learn and unlearn new and existing workflows. To do this well, you must understand what they need to do and then find the right tools to get their work done.
- How to let go of the way you’ve always done things (as well as who you think you are). Unlearning is an inherent aspect of what IT professionals do every day. You help your co-workers and clients unlearn and adapt to new tools on a regular basis. As people return to the office, you’ll serve as a trusted source for implementing new technology that will keep them safe. For IT, this is new. Never before did IT include ensuring the physical safety of the organization, but being responsible for all technology, it’s imperative to welcome these changes to the department’s identity.
- How to lead others by becoming comfortable with ambiguity and championing human potential. To be successful leaders, we have to move away simply driving productivity in routine work and focus on inspiring human potential through accelerated learning. That means collaborating and learning together: creating a balanced atmosphere that includes psychological safety and cognitive diversity. Culture and capacity are the linchpin to making this work.
With the coronavirus still in play, we have an opportunity to reimage work. We’re using technology to unleash human potential like never before. We’re making a massive shift from “me to we” and the technology now at our disposal allows us to increase collaboration. You will enable your organizations to do more and do it safely.
I cover these topics in greater detail in my keynote from AVI Impact, which you can find here.
About the Author:
Described as “the oasis” when it comes to insights into the future of work, Heather E. McGowan helps leaders prepare their people and organizations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution — the rapid advancement of technology tools into the domain of human knowledge work. Heather advises and gives keynote addresses for organizations all over the world and, with her colleagues, provides bespoke consulting to help organizations adapt and change. McGowan is the co-author of The Adaptation Advantage: Let Go, Learn Fast, and Thrive In The Future of Work.