Written by: Lauren Clark, Mint Group Head of People

COVID-19 has ushered in a new era, forcing companies to catch onto the trend of the virtual offices and reap the technology and benefits offered by the Modern Workplace.

Amid a global pandemic, it has not all been smooth sailing though: people are worried about loved ones, finances, the economy, and their health. Those who can work from home have to navigate the delicate balance of full-time employment and child-rearing. It’s not easy. But, even amid all the chaos, the truth remains: it is doable, and it’s all thanks to the Modern Workplace.

Mint Group has always enabled work flexibility, urging employees to work from home when needed and to suit their working hours to match other commitments. But COVID-19 forced a new situation upon every organisation, which shook the world out of its comfort (or sometimes not-so-comfortable) zone.

As the Head of People for a tech company, I am fortunate to have been living and breathing the Modern Workplace for quite a while and understand the cultural and mental shift needed to enable this virtual environment. While the technology that enables the Modern Workplace has been around for a while, the cultural shift needed to ensure business-as-usual requires much attention and work – something which many organisations did not have time for as lockdowns stormed through the globe.

To understand the impact of a remote workforce on the cultural environment, organisations have to understand and consider each employee’s experience and situation, ensuring collaboration and inclusion for all.  It is, above all, crucial to place the human before the technology. As a mom – currently a full-time working mom – I can relate to the other moms, dads, pet owners, gym-junkies, socialites, extroverts and introverts that have to navigate the new work environment while also (almost) never leaving their homes.

But I also understand how critical it is to “keep the lights on” for our business, and therefore we need input from every single department to see what their challenges are and how we can learn from each other to improve and ensure that Mint Group continues Creating Tomorrow.

In addition to virtual employee onboarding sessions for new Minties, we had to consider the consistent connection needed to keep Mint’s workplace culture alive, such as daily group virtual coffee sessions, early-morning knowledge bites, virtual meetings, and employee catch-ups. These initiatives have become the norm for Mint and have revealed the following as the main focus points for remote workforce empowerment:

Responsibility and trust are non-negotiables

For some employees, remote working benefits may be the difference between enjoyable or stressful work life. For some managers, however, things have never been more stressful as they prefer to physically see and engage with their employees to gauge performance. With remote work becoming the new normal, managers need to trust that team members are responsible and avail them the opportunity to discover a viable work/life balance.

Crucial to this, is realising that productivity is not measured by time logged, but rather by output, which is a much more reliable method of performance measurement. Often, you will also find more productivity and creativity happening in a virtual workspace, and people finally reap the benefits of work/life balance. Remote work may be more common than it used to be. However, it still comes with its challenges such as some employees needing guidance to achieve the required outcomes, and it is up to organisations to foster guidelines, policies, and initiatives that will create a culture to guide employees accordingly.

Interestingly, we have faced another phenomenon of employees working longer hours without the natural breaks that occur in a busy workplace or a commute to break the day up. This has required further guidance and input to ensure employees don’t burn themselves out.

Help is out there

For organisations that did not have access to remote applications before COVID-19, help is available. Technology providers across the world are responding to the global crisis by availing applications for free to ensure the world economy can continue.

An example is Microsoft which has offered free Teams licenses to help with remote work. Organisations can also use the MyAnalytics feature provided in the Microsoft 365 stack to help measure productivity and see where improvements and guidelines are needed.

Technologies, such as Teams, have proven that we don’t need to see each other to be effective. Some organisations have experienced an increase in productivity as people have fewer distractions with more time spent focusing on the tasks at hand.  A level of discipline to use these technologies to their full potential is required though, stressing the need for organisations to instill parameters and ensure that they are using the full functionality of the applications correctly.

Accountability is the new brand

One of the positive outcomes of COVID-19 is the effects we have seen on the environment. Virtual offices place less stress on infrastructure, bring down resource consumption, and enable a more balanced lifestyle for employees. With the global pandemic highlighting the effect humans have had on the environment and the fact that (some) industries can function remotely, companies’ ethical behaviour following COVID-19 will be a focus for both clients and future employees.

Therefore, organisations’ efforts during and after the pandemic will dictate the perception of their brand and the subsequent future growth thereof.  This will influence Talent Attraction as well, as potential employees will be looking at companies who maintained a considerate and compassionate approach during the COVID-19 crisis. As more people become competent and capable of remote work, it is companies that enable the virtual workplace that will rise above the crisis and ensure they are future proof.