Angela Salmeron (Research Manager, European Future of Work)

The global effects of coronavirus is a threat to our wellbeing and even the lives of the most vulnerable. Its virulence is now spreading fast in the business world. Hundreds of billions of dollars, euros and pounds have been wiped off the world’s stock markets; in the U.K., more than £125 billion vanished from the FTSE 100 on March 9.

But the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is not only felt in the financial markets. Many industries have been badly affected, particularly transport, logistics and tourism. For others, the disruption has been felt in their supply chain, workforce (if asked to self-isolate at home) and business travel, to name a few.

The question we need to ask ourselves is how we can turn the current unprecedented (and unexpected) global crisis into something positive. Interestingly, the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” is made up of two characters meaning “opportunity” and “danger”.

IDC hosted its UK Future of Work Conference last March 3, and there was general consensus that COVID-19 is actually an opportunity to accelerate the Future of Work. Industry leaders and business executives agreed that the new situation can bring forward the cultural changes that have been mightily resisted before, namely a “remote first culture”, a “culture of trust”, and a “sustainability culture”.

COVID-19 is transforming work as we know it

  1. A remote first culture

Many organisations across the world are sending their employees to work from home and, consequently, are revising their existing remote working policies. This is teaching a lesson to business leaders about trust and productivity, and might result in remote working policies becoming widespread post-coronavirus. Only 38% of European companies allowed for such policies prior to the outbreak, according to an IDC survey conducted in December 2018.

A remote first culture will inevitably change communication patterns within and across teams:

  • Digital communication will become more personal and enabled with video.
  • Virtual meetings across remote workers will have a regular cadence.
  • Team communication will be more structured and be supported by context-aware work management and collaboration solutions.
  • A new etiquette will be designed dealing with audio/visuals during a conference (e.g., avoiding a baby crying in the background).

This new working environment requires organisations to invest in scalable enterprise-grade productivity and collaboration tools. It’s not surprising that in the last month the share prices of Zoom and other collaboration vendors have experienced sharp increases.

Security will nonetheless remain top of the agenda as polices for remote working are rolled out.  We expect security teams to work closely with business leads and HR as they redefine an inherent (by design and by default) security model and relevant policies for the new workstyles. We expect data loss prevention technologies and intelligent policy automation to be widely used as a result.

  1. A culture of trust and empowerment

Remote working will also require leaders to trust their employees and teams, once and for all, and evolve their leadership style from “command and control” to one of empowerment and trust.

While many principles need to co-exist for a culture of trust to succeed, we believe that an open communication, stating very clearly (and several times) the team goals, individual roles and how each employee makes an impact on the bigger picture, is fundamental.

Business leaders will need to reconfigure teams and assign new roles in times of crisis, but this will be another test of their adaptability and resilience to change in an agile world.

Team performance, and not individuals, will be constantly monitored, and evolving KPIs will be used to positively drive business performance. This is all part of a data-driven culture.

  1. A sustainability culture

According to the Global Business Travel Association, business travel restrictions are badly hitting the sector. The association estimates the virus is costing the business travel industry $47 billion per month or up to 37% of the industry’s forecast spending this year.

However, and once again, every cloud has a silver lining. A number of forthcoming flagship conferences have been “reimagined” and turned into digital experiences. Google Cloud Next ’20: Digital Connect is an example. The IMF and World Bank are also planning to replace their regular meetings in mid-April in Washington with a virtual format.

While “teleconferencing” will unlikely become the norm post-coronavirus, we expect many organizations to make them a “sustainable” practice, and will therefore review and curb business travel as a result. Air travel only represents 2% of the total human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere, but the green credentials of every organisation are now under great scrutiny.

In summary, it’s in the chaos and disruption created by the coronavirus that a new order will emerge. Every crisis also creates an opportunity. It’s therefore crucial for business leaders to revisit traditional ways of work and experiment with new practices that will help them meet their goals.

We believe that a culture of remote working, empowerment and trust, and sustainability, enabled by relevant technologies, can effectively support companies in the current situation and beyond.

Certainly, the coming months will be a global test for companies and their readiness for the Future of Work. “Adapt or die,” says the old adage.

IDC will be hosting its second pan-European Future of Work Summit in June 22-23, where leading European business leaders and industry vendors will join together to build best Future of Work practices. Discover more on this video:

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact or Angela Salmeron, or head over to drop your details in the form on the top right.

 

If you want to know more about how COVID-19 will affect industries, read it here:

Also, you can watch our webcast here: COVID-19 Impact: Navigating the European Technology Markets

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