How could a 2020 recap do without talking about the COVID-19 pandemic? Despite all “Corona frustration”, we would like to end the year on a positive note and focus on the potential that the pandemic has uncovered. As every year, digital pioneer Janus Boye gives us his insights into the trends of the upcoming year – which are, of course, significantly influenced by COVID.
Janus Boye is a Dane who has been working at the crossing of networking, innovation and digital leadership for over twenty years. With his company Boye & Co’s international networking events, Janus creates a space in which managers can share, discuss and exchange ideas about innovations.
Janus, two of your main topics are the digital working world and new work in general. The coronavirus pandemic turned the working world upside down in a very short amount of time. What observations did you make this year?
Janus Boye - © Boye & Co.
What a strange and surreal year it has been. We’ve seen working from home like never before. We’ve seen sudden change like never before. We’ve also seen the limitations of remote working, the stress of long days of Zoom and how we can’t just do keep our old 9 - 5 routine while working remote. Or perhaps we can? The new normal in all types of organisations around the world is not really normal yet. And what is the new normal we want to strive for?
Dealing COVID on top of the day-to-day challenges has been all-consuming for most, so as with other big changes, I think Bill Gates is right when he famously said that we tend to overestimate the impact on the short term and underestimate on the long term.
Among our members in Europe and North America, I’ve seen many different ways of thinking when it comes to New Work and designing the future workplace. What I’ve from many is also that they really miss the in-person activities - it’s what makes us human!
What do you think of the virtual-first approach that some companies have been applying this year? Some would like to make do without physical workspaces provided by the company even after the pandemic has ended.
It’s quite interesting to see how organisations are taking remote working to the next level. How do we combine the best of both worlds? The old and the new. Clearly, it’s quite tiring to sit through Zoom calls all day long and social events via video calls are far from ideal.
Beispiel für soziale Events in Remote-Form: die byte5-Weihnachtsfeier - © byte5
Many organisations are now reconsidering if they still need as much office space. Some have even cancelled their leases. This trend will probably continue, but I still see the need for local and inspiring places to meet. This could be in smaller offices, shared workspaces, museums or elsewhere, where employees can go to meet, work and interact with colleagues.
What’s often forgotten in the discussion are also the many who simply cannot work from home. The school teacher, the truck driver, the nurse. What’s the new normal to them and how do we ensure that their place in the workplace of tomorrow is improved? It’s clear that digital comes with limitations, in particular when it comes to creating a shared culture and sense of belonging.
What can cooperation look like in 2021 if there are still many employees who are working alone from home?
Boye & Co-Konferenz 2020 - © Boye & Co.
Collaboration is key and we’ve seen some really interesting experiences and experimentation this year when it comes to remote collaboration. What’s the right mix of video conferencing and in-person meetings?
It’s clear that for collaboration to truly work, you also need to invest time in a foundation based on trust and authentic relationships. To what extent do you meet in person or can you rely on digital tools? Due to the pandemic, many have had to rely exclusively on digital tools like Zoom and while we’ve seen results, we are also seeing where it comes up short.
A trend among some of our members is adjusting the routines from pre-COVID, like daily standups, retrospectives and similar, so that it fits a situation with many working from home. Some are trying to make work less linear and using the pandemic to improve their meeting culture.
Still, remember these are early days when it comes to understanding the massive change, and working on the pressure of never-ending breaking news, different levels of lockdown, are far from ideal circumstances for collaboration. Once we get to a less stressful situation, we’ll have to see which collaboration trends emerge.
Arbeitsalltag für viele während der Krise - © Unsplash
How can the corporate culture be successfully maintained with increasing remote work? What new formats are out there to protect and strengthen a sense of togetherness?
Actually, some organisations like Automattic (the company behind Wordpress), Elastic and others have been fully remote organisations for several years. The key difference is that pre-COVID they were able to meet when necessary or they at least could do their regular summits. With travel restrictions that have been impossible and clearly challenged the company culture throughout.
It’s important to note, that company culture is never a static thing. As humans, we adapt, we boss watch, and we navigate to do our best. In 2020 we had many conversations about dealing with increased pressure, newly gained flexibility, being busier than ever and this all impacts the company culture.
A common trend across our members is the strengthened focus on communication, in particular, internal communication and also internal community management. I’m also seeing companies being much more willing to invest in the home office on behalf of their staff and even setting time aside to create a sense of team spirit and internal community.
I’ve also seen some innovative and even fun formats, where internal meetings have been spiced with pre-recorded messages from famous actors or other stars. It’s still possible to make a difference through small things - and these are the details that shape a company culture.
Janus, mange tak for the interesting insights and stay healthy!