How the Lessons Learned in the Last Two Months of Quarantine Will Help Us Build Stronger Businesses & Workplace Culture for the Future

None of us were ready for this pandemic – how could we have been? The challenges it posed rightfully threw executives and employees for a loop. But the insights gleaned during this time provide vital insight for how to rebuild with flexibility for the long term.

As a social research platform and interactive community made of about 16k CIOs, CISOs, and IT executives, Pulse has deep insights into how executives and companies of all sizes grappled with how to adapt. As a growing business ourselves, we began adapting based on our shared experiences with the Pulse community leaders and learned from the collective wisdom.

The world is facing a temporary (and perhaps permanent for many) shift to remote work, a challenge perhaps most directly impacting leaders in IT and HR. In order for companies to come out of this with internal processes functioning at the new normal, they have to rely on collaboration and communication improvements – both when it comes to individual skill sets and tech enablement. Here are a few key data points with our takeaways on three things to take as industry learnings from the past two months:

Handling a Crisis Comes Down to Preparedness and Collaboration.

One of the first moves executives should take in any crisis is to open up lines of communication that may have previously not been in use. Amid COVID-19 and the shift to remote work, IT and HR executives need to work together more closely than ever before. Discussing collaboration and connectivity techniques and technology, and working together to create plans for the next six to eighteen months will be essential in the success of companies.

When the pandemic started to visibly impact businesses in the U.S., we ran a study of 100 companies. Of these companies, only 57 percent believed they were prepared with a tech stack that enabled full work from home capabilities. But the vast majority was prepared to increase their spending on communication tools, both for internal communication and client communications.

Looking forward, 72 percent of IT leaders anticipated that supporting remote work will cause an increase (or no change, despite the economic situation) in tech budgets. In this same study, 17 percent of executives noted their companies were shifting their tech spending to focus on internal communication and collaboration tools, while 13 percent said their organizations were prioritizing spending on customer communication and collaboration tools.

Bring HR and IT Executives Together Early

Perhaps the best news of all in adapting to the changing workflows was the dramatic increase in bringing executives from different departments together in high-level conversations early to ensure a positive end-user experience.

In our second survey, this one of 250 people, 64 percent of executives noted an increase in collaborative decision making since the start of the pandemic. Instead of executives making siloed decisions about the technology strategies companies need to effectively work remotely, they’re combining executive and end-user (including individual employee) perspectives as well.

According to Harvard Business Review, HR and IT are prioritizing working together for their companies’ larger successes, especially when it comes to finding and deploying new technologies that are both effective and well-received by employees.

Increase Transparency & Add Frequent Pulse Checks to Boost Morale.

At Pulse, we’re a startup with 15 people, spread (even before this) across a number of cities, states, and countries. But with this shift to remote work limiting any chance to come together, especially for those of us used to seeing each other daily, it’s impossible not to feel the impact on employee morale. We saw this same impact on companies across our platform.

In a third recent Pulse study, this one of 250 leaders, who were asked to choose words to describe their companies’ current state of mind, from very communicative, unsettled, disconnected, and downcast. With the option to multi-select, 50 percent of leaders chose “very communicative,” while simultaneously, 41 percent chose “unsettled.” Meaning? Employees are working hard to adapt to remote work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming at a price. Only 28 percent of leaders responded with “energized.”

Of the same survey of 250, 76 percent of companies said they had shifted their communication strategies to better connect with their remote teams.

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At Pulse, we established two different practices to collaborate and continue to keep our culture strong. For collaborating better, we created a ‘work while on video’ daily session that the entire team is invited to. This helps preserve the watercooler chats, hang out with teammates, or even break out into ad-hoc work sessions for specific topics. We also introduced daily syncs for the team to share their learnings from the previous day and share any new experiments or upcoming changes that everyone should know about. For preserving our culture, we introduced a happy hour every Friday where we hang out on Zoom – which often results in the team sharing things they’ve worked on and are proud of that week. We also doubled down on our ‘stormtrooper’ of the week to recognize teammates that have gone above and beyond what is expected of them (as voted for by the team). Together, all of these implementations help me feel reenergized and reconnected with my team each day. We saw the same instinct across the board.  In another multi-select option around how companies are improving morale, 80 percent noted that “communicating regularly with employees about the COVID-19 situation,” while 52 percent responded with “speaking frankly on difficult issues like layoffs.” Plus, 53 percent of these leaders noted that their companies had instituted new training for managers, specifically as it related to communicating with employees around COVID-19.

Some companies were able to go even further: 49 percent are strengthening employee necessities (like healthcare, sick pay) in an effort to bolster spirits, while 40 percent noted they were improving employee perks – food allowances, helping with childcare, etc.

In the end, one thing is clear: companies’ priorities should, first and foremost, be transparency and clarity from leadership. The best leaders and founders embrace transparency to build faith with your teams that you’re in this thing together, even while separate and working from afar.

Where we go from here

No matter how quickly or fervently we re-enter the world, there are workplace trends that will linger, specifically when it comes to remote work that will help us build stronger and more flexible workplaces for the future.

Companies making the investments in collaborative technology now, rather than hanging on and hoping their existing tech will suffice, are those that will come out of this stronger, more prepared for the future of work.

So no, we may not have been fully prepared for this change in the world economy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our struggles and emerge wiser for how to best support our talent, our customers, and ourselves.

At Pulse, we’re proud to continue to assist the IT and HR communities in their constant efforts to share and gather knowledge, so that peer-tested best practices can help us all navigate the new normal.

Mayank Mehta is the Co-Founder and CEO at Pulse, the social research platform for 17.5K CIOs and technology executives. Pulse sources real data from real people in real-time, enabling top professionals to make informed, data-backed business decisions. Prior to Pulse, Mayank co-founded Bleat Inc. and Cooliris, (acquired by Yahoo!) and served as VP of Product at Capriza. Mayank received his BA in Engineering from McGill University, and his MBA from The Wharton School. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters. 

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