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#WFH: What the F…. Happened in 2020!

We had to work from home! My book #WFH explores the impact on regular people, everyday lives and the way we work and feel. A pandemic started in China in early February 2020 when cities like Huanggang and Wuhan sent workers home and the province of Hubei went on lockdown. China is where COVID-19 originated and in China working from home was almost unheard of prior to the pandemic. But once the government shut everything down and encouraged workers to stay at home, millions of Chinese started to experience the pros and cons of working from home for the first time. Much like the scenes in New York that were to follow, early on the streets in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were spooky and quiet. Videoconference platforms took the place of conference tables and WeChat, DingTalk and Zoom were being used everywhere. Workers around the globe have had to adjust to a new way of working. Bosses have had to adjust to a new way of trusting. Individuals have had to reconsider what and how they focus: are they distracted by family members and finding it difficult to concentrate or are they enjoying the experience and improving their productivity? Everyone has been forced to adapt.

It happened overnight. One week in mid-March 2020, Silicon Valley let over 500,000 employees go home to work. That was only the beginning. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses, customers and all aspects of our lives. It took us by surprise. According to research conducted by in April 2020, 51% of businesses had been drastically impacted by COVID-19 and only 2% had not been impacted at all. More than half of businesses felt that the impact would be long term, greater than six months or more. Projects had been delayed, purchases had been postponed and workplace changes had accelerated. More than 63% of businesses reported that working from home has made them more productive. Almost everyone is and will be focused on the impact of COVID-19 and working from home for a long time. Many businesses possessed the equipment, software and connections needed for people to work from home prior to the pandemic, but they never did it. Partly because of organizational culture and partly because of the human need for connection and proximity, working from home was not an option for most companies. Now it is the “new normal” and many organizations are moving forward and not looking back. There is a lot to learn and a lot that will make us all stronger and better once we come out of this on the other side. Hopefully, company cultures will change to embrace the positives and allow their employees the flexibility to work remotely on a regular basis.

Going virtual overnight has proven that we can work remotely and do it effectively. COVID-19 has forced a new reality. Connection in the remote workplace requires more effort and everyone working together, not in silos. Remote work requires knowledge sharing, leadership and regular communications. Strategic decisions, plans and projects require engagement, clear expectations and setting individual priorities based on business values. It’s a big change for most workers. The systems and structures need to be adapted, and organizational hierarchies adjusted, to a much flatter workplace.

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