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Changed Forever: What We’ve Learned by Adapting to Working Remotely

Posted by on October 19, 2020

woman working from home

Before last spring, when the pandemic forced the nation’s workforce to disperse to remote locations, the idea of remote working was largely theoretical. Many companies allowed some employees to work at home, but the scope was limited, and most systems were set up to support a workforce that was largely onsite. Now, of course, remote working is a reality with which almost every organization has had to grapple—whether they were ready for it or not. More importantly, it’s clear that some of the changes in how companies and their employees now work—especially in terms of their use of IT—are likely permanent. 

The good news, according to a recent study by Lawless Research conducted for Cherwell Software, is that both employees and companies have adjusted to this change. The vast majority of survey respondents—IT and non-IT managers and executives in large U.S. companies—rated their experience with remote work as good or excellent. And a high percentage of these respondents said their productivity and satisfaction had increased as well. 

This shift, of course, hasn’t been entirely seamless. While those who have been successful at adapting to remote work have proven that workers don’t have to be tied to their desks to get their jobs done, this shift has taken not only a good amount of creativity but also a willingness to experiment with different approaches to systems that had long been taken for granted. Some of the key lessons we’ve learned in the process—and seen documented through our Lawless research—include: 

Digital Maturity Is at the Heart of Progress

Before the pandemic struck, more than 60 percent of survey respondents said they were actively pursuing digital transformation. The move to remote working did little to blunt that effort: Not only did the percentage pursuing digital transformation stay the same, but fully 40 percent of respondents said that they were putting an even greater emphasis on this effort.

And it was paying off. Those respondents who had achieved digital maturity by the time the pandemic struck reported greater success in adapting to its demands than those who were not so far down the road; they were happier, more productive, more satisfied, and further along in the adoption of both low-code/no-code and self-service platforms.

Coupled with the demands of remote working, digital transformation has allowed them to…

Look Through a Different Lens

But even those not as digitally mature have found that being able to get the work done without having five support people standing guard in their living rooms has pushed them to change their mindsets and look for collaborative, often self-service answers.

Products such as ours had naturally been designed to be used in a specific sort of environment where people could walk down the hall in search of an IT specialist or consult their co-worker across the cubicle if they ran into a problem, getting help immediately. What we’ve been focusing on since the workforce dispersed is making sure that our products are understandable enough and even codeless enough that people can get their work done without the immediate assistance they were previously accustomed to.

And that underscores how important it is to…

Take a New Approach to Training

 Since the barriers imposed by remote working keep us from being able to do hands-on or group training, we’ve had to find new ways to help both our own workforce and our customers open the box and get going. In most instances, we’ve gone virtual, providing user groups with information through online presentations.

This, of course, takes both adaptation and creativity as we seek to keep lines of communication open and compensate for the opportunities for random connections that are possible at in-person events. And that’s as important in the office as it is at a user conference as we seek to…  

Replace Lost Hallway Conversations

 Even when employees have figured out how to make the technology work without easily available IT support, to code without coding skills, to pace their time without the usual 9 to 5 routine, it’s been difficult to replace the casual hallway chat, the social interaction that spawned not only collegiality but also innovative thinking.

Like other companies, we’ve focused on creating interaction not only through Zoom birthday parties and regularly scheduled team meetings but also through that tried-and-true method of communication: the telephone. We’ve found it useful to drop in by phone with people we haven’t spoken to in a while, people working in other parts of the company, people who, if we were back in the office, we might run into in the hall. And that has allowed us to…

Level the Playing Field Between Remotes and Non-Remotes

 Back when most people worked in the office, those who worked remotely found themselves at a disadvantage when, for example, they were at the other end of a conference line and everyone else was in the room talking over each other.  But now, even if most people go back to the office when this the pandemic ends, they will have had the experience of being remote, and that will inform the way they work in the future, to everyone’s benefit. And that leads us to conclude that…

We’re Not Going Back to the Way We Were—and That’s Not a Bad Thing

 Yes, we’ve all had to make a lot of adjustments—to when, where, and how we work; to how we maintain momentum without easy access to IT help; to how we design our products and train people to use them; to how we build, maintain, and nurture interactions with each other.

But the success that both individuals and businesses have had with this adaptation shows that, regardless of when, and even if, people return to their offices, we’ve learned some valuable lessons, we’ve been forced to think and work innovatively—and what could be more exciting than that?

Read more findings from the Lawless Research survey of managers and executives both inside and outside corporate IT departments in our eBook, The Virtuous Circle of Digital Transformation. Or, take a quick look at the stats and findings in this infographic

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