The Post-Covid Workplace
“It would be helpful if you were wary of sending links or overly interactive
content in an online environment as people begin to
drift off-topic with such open-ended
Training in the Pandemic world and beyond.
While the Covid-19 virus and its variants still plague the world, lockdowns and restrictions are lifted. Vaccinations and other precautions have lessened the risk, so many people head back to work. As the New Normal sets in, more and more people return to work without leaving their homes. Even before the virus, changes in technology and automation made a lot of employee enrichment content accessible online, and the need for social distancing accelerated that trend. It can be challenging to navigate any new situation, but by knowing what to expect and why these changes have been made, you can not only survive these changing paradigms but thrive.
Safety and preference are both driving the trend toward remote workspaces, and failure to adapt means decreased efficiency and unhappy workers. Inbound employees will have certain expectations, and if you have tasks that the hires could do from home taking place in the office, it may be time to ask yourself if you are clinging to tradition or stuck in your ways. You Can’t Fight The Future, and due to mandate, remote working is no passing trend or a temporary aberration. While some brick-and-mortar offices are returning to capacity, many allow employees to remain sheltered in place. The best plan wins in an economy of ideas; if you do not offer remote options, you will certainly lose out to those who do.
Evolve or obsolete
At this point in the global pandemic, you won’t if you have not deployed some remote applications. Because of the inherent benefits detailed below, the future will be remote. Tracking by Task instead of Time, businesses have relented on the idea that you must be at your workstation and engaged in company business to be productive. Task-based performance tracking rewards efficient and fast workers, giving the employee more
downtime; breaks in workflow paradoxically maintain steady productivity.
Keeping people spread apart and learning remotely, or at least through digital mediums, isn’t going anywhere. Employee training programs and on-the-job training have consistently used these sorts of multimedia formats. Now that packing new and developing employees into a room and having an instructor lecture them has been replaced with remote options, many businesses are electing to retain the distant model. Beyond raging viruses, traffic, employee satisfaction, and lowered overhead are all inciting companies that have the option to remain remote and even add more out-of-office positions. This shift from physical locality to asynchronous remote work means not only at-home On-Boarding materials and employee orientation
but the possibility of seldom, if ever, setting foot in an office.
With vehicle congestion growing everywhere and mass transit options limited, many people have been pushing to work remotely for years. The internet and other paperless technologies are making many professions’ physical locations vestigial– having served a purpose in the past, it is now a waste of resources. Saving the fuel cost and maintenance needed for long commutes saves money, making a remote work experience even more attractive. Factor in the relative health risks associated with driving, and finding a 95% or more remote job sounds better and better. Once you get over the initial learning curve, you might wonder why anyone would go to work.
Chances are, if you perform your job at a computer terminal, you have fantasized about working from home ever since the internet was invented. Anecdotal and spurious examples always indicated an employee is more efficient in their own space, and the pandemic-forced dislocation has given us complex data to back it up. People perform better when are at home, and this increased productivity is accompanied by high morale.
Once all is said and done, remote working could not gain momentum without generating a positive bottom line, as the cost-benefit analysis knows no favorites. This shift in the workforce is not the result of feelings or a hunch but fiscal crunching by penny pinchers. The obvious benefit of reduced or eliminated overhead is clear: rent, utilities, maintenance, and renovations are eliminated, with HR and other staffing departments contracting or
disappearing altogether. Cutting redundancies and inefficient use of resources are emotionless; waste gets cut without a second thought. As corporations outsourced more and more jobs in the name of profit, eliminating the office itself was almost inevitable once the technology existed to make it possible.
New hires in the New Normal will be spread apart and trained from their future workstations if they are in the office at all. More and more interviews are made via Zoom and other video conference platforms, with orientation and training going digital and remote. Networked computers and shared folders make actual, physical contact more and more unnecessary. Having been forced by government mandates to make these changes, otherwise tradition-bound, even stodgy companies have realized the benefits of joining in the 21st century.
If you have trouble implementing these changes, a little patience and a can-do attitude are all you need. Telling yourself, “I will never get this,” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Modern tech is made to be user-friendly. Plug-and-play is the norm, with hardly any complicated installation or interfaces. Graphic user interfaces, voice recognition, and artificial intelligence have collided to create easy-to-use, almost intuitive designs. Do not let your unfamiliarity with computers and networks scare you away from the revolution taking place right now.
Remote Workers Are Here To Stay
Money saved, increased productivity, and happier workers have resulted in many of these changes being here to stay. One recent survey put out by UpWork, a gig app with millions of users, found that a staggering 27% of Americans worked remotely in 2021, a dizzying rise from 7% in 2018; this 20% increase is not going to drop back down to seven, or even hover around ten. As things open back up, we see workers dislocated workers’ reluctance to return to a physical workspace. And who could blame them? Having performed their duties, and in many cases better, their hesitancy and outright refusal are easy to rationalize.
Comfortable and capable in their homes, post-pandemic workers are understandably reluctant to leave. Security is one of the only reasons to insist on being physically present, but with the widespread adoption of remote practices, even that consideration is taken into consideration. With end-to-end crypto and a small working part of the planning processes from now on, entire companies are now retrofitted or reformed with partial or mostly remote workforces in mind.
Future Shock can creep into the lives of anyone, and sometimes it can feel like requests to make a change is a personal attack. Three years in, however, and most of the bumps on the road to cyber-commuting have been smoothed out. It would help if you kept up with the forced evolution instigated by the shelter-in-place orders or risk being left behind.
Deploy Hybrid Training
Back in the “before times,” 2017, The McKinsey Global Institute predicted that as many as 375 million workers would be displaced by changes in technology and require retraining. Automation and artificial intelligence are doing the same to the working class as computers and robots did in the 80s and 90s. When the pandemic hit, social distancing requirements made sweeping changes in how we worked, and while many thought they would be temporary, more and more, we are seeing people staying put. In the interests of developing remote training models, employee skill development
courses, and other resources for the newly dislocated, we will present a few of the basics in making sure your media is attractive, efficient, and effective. The most important thing to remember is the hybrid aspect. When you implement innovative technology like this, balancing the benefits against the drawbacks is essential and not favor one without reason. You are mixing digital, remote content with hard copies and a classroom or worksite– use the best of both worlds. Know the demographics of the audience receiving your content and tailor it accordingly. Some messages
are better suited to media than others, so maintaining flexibility in delivery will serve an employer well. Keep material you don’t use and organize it– you will be surprised what might be helpful in the future. Using the tools introduced during the pandemic beyond the outbreak’s content makes sense.
For example, having purchased enterprise-level access to Zoom, a company might decide to use the software for more than meetings. Using the
platform for on-the-job training, job interviews, and performance evaluations have benefitted me; the comfort and convenience helped of not having to walk from office to office is yet another benefit. The pandemic has generated all sorts of ‘silver linings,’ or at least unforeseen benefits from the consequences. This utilization of pandemic preparations to force the adapting of innovative technologies does not end at video conferencing, however.
Classrooms around the country received emergency funds to purchase laptops with, and now that in-person learning has resumed, those laptops are used as classroom resources; the dream of a ‘laptop for every child’ only realized because there was no other choice. Similarly, many businesses purchased tablets, laptops, and webcams for the shelter-in-place directives and now find themselves with all the tools a remote or hybrid workforce requires. Bottom-line driven as most of these entities are, those tools are used as a regular workday. Like life vests hidden away in an emergency locker, these items have found use as standard routine equipment.
Be sure informational aids balance form and function. Any visuals, handouts, workbooks, and new employee handbooks should be engaging but not flashy. Content must be easy to find and read, drawing the eye without paying attention. Too heavy on the graphics, fonts, and color, and you risk giving your would-be learner a distraction. However, if you make it bare bones, the recipient will be bored or ignore it altogether. It would be helpful if you were wary of sending links or overly interactive content in an online environment as people begin to drift off-topic with such open-ended references.
The key to effective hybrid workplace performance for many people is perfecting your video and audio channels. Practical document layout and friendly, informational messaging are just as essential, but those skills are helpful in physical workspaces, so we will not dwell on them here. Instead, let’s make sure you know not only how to put your best digital foot forward but why it works the way it does.
Media-casting & Troubleshooting Made Simple
Do not be intimidated or shy as you venture into the realm of multimedia capture and broadcast. This is a workplace skill just as much as desktop computer use and a practical, influential compelling speaking voice: you can practice and develop it just like any ability. Since so many people are intimidated by electronics in general and computers, you can go far with a bit of basic knowledge. As mentioned above, most of this stuff is made to be simple, and with only a handful of essential tips and tricks, you can resolve a significant majority of problems. Below, we take a quick look at multimedia creation.
Check the link before a meeting starts. While the virtual room may not be live, there are usually built-in testing buttons you can use to make sure your video and audio are working correctly. Any problems can be resolved quickly and easily (see below), so don’t panic if things don’t work right away. Using the test functions will give you a quick moment to rehearse a little; if someone enters the meeting while you are mid-sentence, it will provide you a good ice breaker and establish you as someone who takes things seriously.
Practice your material if possible before you must present it in any case. We all learn the rudiments of public speaking in school but sometimes forget to apply them to our professional lives. Just a little rehearsal will improve even minor presentations. You will not only sound more confident, as the words are going to be familiar to you but feel better about being in the spotlight. When you feel comfortable, it shows, bringing us to the next aspect to consider.
Confidence in front of a camera comes with practice, and like any application of bravery, faking it until you make it is perfectly acceptable. Keep your gaze on the camera lens instead of other people’s faces if all their eyes make you nervous and know that most of them are on edge, too. Laugh off any flubs, smile, and be animated. The first lesson anyone who spends time in front of a camera learns is how lifeless regular interactions look, so do not be afraid to go big.
Exciting content is the most important thing you can make, and working on a crisp, energetic delivery will pay dividends later. Assuming you are not in a strictly formal environment, use more prominent, more extensive, more significant gestures than usual, exaggerate your reactions, and otherwise ham it up. A mature presentation looks dull because this lesson is learned in a professional studio production or hard-earned experience: the camera flattens things. If your software allows, use graphics and sound to spice things up. Such special effects are often added in post-production, so a live feed is not always the best option.
Prerecord content every chance you get. Making your content ahead of time and sending it out later allows you to make retakes, edit, and add after-effects. It takes the burden of immediacy off the recipients and provides an automatic hard copy for them to review later. Finally, seeing your message played back will give you dramatically penetrating insight into its content and how your audience will receive it, giving you time to improve it. With all these powerful options at your disposal, there is only one thing standing in your way. When we have all our ducks in a row, we have taken the time and planned every little detail a technical difficulty can threaten to derail the whole thing.
Computer Trouble Shooting
Turn it Off and Back On. Seriously, cycle the power. Do it, and if the problem seems chronic, try unplugging and plugging it back in. You want to leave the power down for half a minute because capacitors retain a little bit of energy and keep some sub-systems running. Flipping the power resets things, gets them back to a zero point. Honestly, before you ask for any help, take this one step.
Well, two steps, because if turning it on and off does not work, you want to re-seat the plugs. Loose cabling is why some IT personnel insist you physically unplug your unit at the power cycle step, but since there are usually a few cables plugged in a few places, I like to use ‘reseat plugs’ as a separate step. Not just at the outlet but the socket at the other end where it attaches to the device if it has one, too. They seldom come loose all by themselves, so resolving the issue is rare. Be sure you are firm but not forceful– if you are pushing too hard, it is in the wrong port.
“Google it” is the second to last step, and usually, you should be able to troubleshoot what you find on the first or second search result. Be specific; adjust your search terms if nothing comes up, but this works more times than not. When working entry-level IT and power cycle/cable reseat failed, we would take the offending computer back to our workspace and enter the problem into a search engine. If it happened to you, it occurred to other people, and there’s a solution posted. Rarely is a situation unique enough never to have been addressed. Typically, the only problem is understanding the terminology they use, but even then, the answer is usually only a few clicks away.
Reformat the offending system if the above fails to resolve your issue. This means uninstalling and reinstalling a program if the problem is isolated to one piece of software or reinstalling the entire system if everything is affected. Smartphones, tablets, and even some computers let you do a Factory Reset, where the device blanks itself, ideally leaving a like-new device. A system reset requires you back up anything you do not want to be destroyed and reinstall everything, so genuinely use this as a weapon of last resort. You may even want to consult with an expert before taking this step, as it is irreversible, and you can lock yourself out of crucial systems or lose data this way.
No Turning Back
Whichever way you may personally feel is beside the point: The genie is out of the bottle, and both management and staff are better off. Like war creating new inventions, the disease has pulled many of us into the future who had failed to launch. Whether kicking and screaming or striding forward, we have crossed the threshold into the New Normal. Working from home is now on the table for many of us, ready or not. While implementing hybrid orientation and on-the-job training might give some of us headaches, the result will be worth any growing pains that you may experience. If you get a headache in the modern remote workplace, you can always kick back, relax, and let the tension leave your body naturally– if you get back to work!