Working efficiently in a virtual world

The forced lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced millions of people out of a formal office environment and into a make-shift home office. Most have found ways for their home and work life to co-exist in the same space on a temporary basis (for tips, see our article from April 21, 2020 entitled “Top six tips for staying healthy and productive while working from home”), but what if working in a virtual world became a long-term reality? Are employers doing enough to ensure their staff have access to the same equipment, tools and technology that they had onsite in their office to be effective in their home office on a permanent basis? Are they able to promote the same camaraderie and collaboration opportunities if the majority of their staff continue to work remotely?

There are added safety protocols required at every workplace to lower the risk of infection as staff return to work which some experts say may be part of the ‘new normal’ for years to come. These protocols may include implementing security measures such as thermal scanning and reconfiguring office layouts to allow for social distancing as well as instituting stringent, new sanitation procedures.

“COVID-19 is challenging us all to work together in new ways. We choose to jump in the driver’s seat, instead of being passengers to the changes ahead. We cannot go back to the way things were. This isn’t a choice; this is the future,” Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify, said on Twitter on May 21, 2020. Shopify recently announced that they will follow the lead of Twitter and Facebook and allow the majority of their 5,000 workforce to work from home permanently.

Video Conferencing and Instant Messaging (IM); a remote worker’s collaboration tools *

No matter if your staff is working remotely for a short period or if you employ a remote workforce on a permanent basis, there is tremendous benefit to hosting staff meetings via a video conferencing platform such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex. Video conferencing offers a way to virtually connect in a way that is not possible on a standard conference call. It is also beneficial to set remote staff up on Instant Messaging (IM) platforms such as Slack, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. Some of these IM platforms allow for the creation of separate channels for every team or project where staff can collaborate and share files. IM is an efficient way to send quick messages back and forth rather than using email or text.

The Hamilton-based company, Innovation Factory, has created a true virtual office where every staff person has built their own Avatar to move about the virtual office. (See the CityNews story here). Even if most companies do not take working from home to that level, there will become an ever-growing need to incorporate the virtual tools as part of the everyday business plan.

COVID-19 has changed the face of the in-person meeting

As the global economies come back online, we should expect to find that most industries have adjusted to safeguard staff and customers alike. The events industry (from venues to suppliers to caterers) will initially need to adjust how they serve their customers. Venues will need to implement safety measures same as office, retail and manufacturing workplaces. Will we find buffets go the way of the Dodo bird? Will people travel the same as they did pre-COVID-19? These are all things that event staff will now need to add to their checklist as they plan their events and they will therefore need to become creative in how they integrate virtual events such as webinars and podcasts with those held in-person.

Think of webinars as a tool that can help you expand your reach as you can make it available to people globally (or members across a large chapter region) without the expense or time of traveling. Webinars can incorporate an education component (the speaker presentations), a Q&A session and be one aspect of a larger virtual event that includes breakout sessions and virtual networking events. Although webinars and podcasts will never replace the networking and lead generation of an in-person event, they do offer a flexible platform from an educational standpoint.

CIQS adapting to a virtual reality

CIQS is venturing into the webinar realm with the launch of virtual chapter meetings in June and a National virtual AGM and CIQS Year in Review in July. Learn more here. We also have a robust podcast called “Knowledge Counts – Construction Professional Development on the Go!” that features interviews with some of the industry’s thought leaders. CIQS is continuously looking for innovative ways for our members to connect and learn during this pandemic and beyond. We are stronger than ever – together!

* CIQS does not recommend one service over another; they are merely listed as samples of the various platforms available.