The way we work has changed and will continue to change. I’ve spoken with senior and mid-level managers about the impact of Covid-19 and how their companies will work when we all emerge from the virus-induced hibernation, and things will be different. Now more than ever, skills for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) will be needed and valued.
Remote work, which was often shunned before as managers and leaders did not believe staff could be productive at home, or that innovation wasn’t possible if people weren’t in the same office have come to realize this is not always the case. The biggest change we’re going to see is more remote working and less time in the office. With this change comes different skill sets we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, and skills most of us have had to quickly develop or strengthen over the past few months.
Working remotely means different people may work at a different pace or have differing schedules. Being able to adjust to these fluctuations will be more important than ever. Some team members may be in the office two days a week, while others three, and others only once every two weeks. Scheduling meetings, virtual or in-person, may become more difficult, but they will also come with more varied time slots than before.
Communicating effectively is already an increasingly valuable skill, as we continue to value information at exponential levels. With team members in various locations, being able to communicate will become even more important as you won’t be able to turn to your neighbor and ask a question, time lags between responses may increase, and the pace at which we’re working will continue to speed up. We’ll need to ensure we are all on the same page and understand tasks and responsibilities, making communication, written and oral, ever so important.
While we will spend more time alone, teamwork and collaboration will only increase. We will need to understand our team members, how they react to criticism and direction, how and when to communicate with them, and how to work together. Going at it alone will become less and less of an option, and because of remote working, the existing challenges of teamwork will only be exaggerated.
We’re now all familiar with the various digital communication tools, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and many others. However, new and more advanced technologies will emerge, as will new methods and techniques. Methods of communication, data analysis, and strategy development will speed up, and by spending less time in the office, we’ll need to learn these skills on our own.
As we spend less time in physical proximity with our team members, we will need to understand our mental and emotional states better. The 4IR is forcing many of us into situations we’ve never encountered, ideas and innovations which seem foreign to us, and technology we do not understand. Working remotely can exploit these feelings and push us to the emotional brink. We need to understand how our emotions work, how we react to others and criticism, and how this impacts our relationships and work products.
We will be working like no other workforce has in the history of the world. The 4IR has enabled this to happen, and it’s now being sped up by the virus and our understanding of how people work with new technology. With new comes change, and therefore we have to be able to adapt to how we communicate, how we manage, how we follow direction, how we schedule our day and workweek, and many other daily and weekly tasks we have taken for granted.
There are many other soft skills Covid is making us strengthen faster than we normally would with the 4IR. The key is for us to understand how much change is happening and that we need to adapt, or we won’t succeed.
We entering unchartered territory, so it’s even more important now to focus on strengthening our soft skills in order to handle the many, and probably unimaginable, challenges facing us in the coming years.
Guest Blog Post by David Larson, Professor at AUS