Change of mindset: will online work and learning become the new normal?

Coronavirus is not only a tragic health issue and causing misery to thousands of people and their families, but it’s also disrupting businesses all around the world. From supply chain management and manufacturing, to the stock market and travel industries.

In this blog post I look at the effects of this on corporate work, conferences and, of course, the world of using technology to communicate, connect and learn.

If you need more info on coronavirus as an employer,
the CIPD (UK based) has a fact sheet.

Remote working imperative

Whilst not all organisations, roles or people are able to work remotely, should those that can, do? Many organisations have put all non-essential travel on hold, with an “overabundance of caution” almost becoming the soundbite of 2020.

Larry Dignan, Editor-in-Chief of ZDNet, in a recent article stated: “Remote work is being considered by a wider group of people. Today, the average worker is in the office, but now needs to test access, ergonomics and meeting access pronto. Why? The CDC advises if anyone is seeing symptoms that may be Coronavirus related, they should stay home.”

People might be being encouraged to stay at home but the work continues and we still need to pay the bills.

The virtual working mindset

In our latest Lightbulb Moment Podcast Mike and I discuss the advantages, and challenges, of remote working, for both individuals and at an organisation level.

I’ve worked from my home office, alone, all the time I’ve run Lightbulb Moment, since 2013. Mike started working with me in 2017, also from his own home. So we run the company remotely, including to speaking with our clients through online meetings and, of course, training people in webinars and virtual classrooms, usually without meeting them face to face.

Working from home or in a location remote from a central office can have it’s challenges – such as having the dedicated quiet space, the ergonomics to work comfortably and safely, as well as the associated costs of equipment like monitors, broadband lines and perhaps appropriate furniture.

It’s also about mindset. A colleague of mine from years ago would dress for work as normal, drive round the block back to her own house and be in work mode. I’m happy to wear a t-shirt when not on camera, and put a laundry wash on during the day, but it’s about finding the approach that works for your home and work situation.

Something Mike and I didn’t discuss on the podcast was the differences in managing a remote team. As a manager communication is still important, it’s just different.

Events and conferences

Bill Detwiler, Editor in Chief of TechRepublic, wrote this week that “while we won’t know the coronavirus’ effects on the overall nature of work for some time, one sector of the tech economy that’s already feeling an immediate impact is industry events.”

A fairly long list in that article includes:

  • The Adobe Summit scheduled for Las Vegas in March is now an online only event.
  • Cisco Live Melbourne in March has been cancelled.
  • Facebook’s F8 developer conference in May has been cancelled.
  • Google Cloud Next for April is now online.

And many, many more.

Here’s a list of events that have been cancelled, that seems to be being kept up to date.

Donald Clark, in his blog “Coronavirus and climate change should accelerate online education and training…” highlights this recent change in the events industry. He shares that coronavirus and climate change could both have a positive outcome in terms of rethinking why we travel so much and the prevalence of large face to face events.

Futurist and author of Technology vs Humanity, Gerd Leonhard, said in a recent email newsletter: “I have been offering remote and virtual keynotes for quite some time, and am doing increasingly more of them – but of course, all of these events are still involving a ‘real’ audience that is gathered physically while I present virtually. But what if we brought everyone together, virtually, instead? What would that look and feel like?”

We think it could look awesome! Like every great webinar or virtual classroom you’ve been on, it can bring people from around the world together without the costs (monetary, productivity, environmental and health) associated with them.

This will allow people to communicate with the speaker much easier than they can at most face to face keynote presentations. Through the chat window you can share links to relevant information for others to click on, it doesn’t limit people to 280 characters like Twitter does and it can be easier to have conversations with others.

That is, of course, if the chat window is enabled. A lot of webinars don’t, and I think it’s a huge limiting mistake, which you can read more about here.

In his ZDNet article, Larry Dignan stated: “At the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference in New York in early February, Chinese researchers mostly delivered their talks via video conferencing or canned presentations due to travel bans.” This highlights that you don’t have to be at a conference to speak there, the message can be delivered without the need for travel.

Dignan goes on: “While coronavirus will hit certain parts of the economy hard, enterprises may see real savings. Travel expenses will fall. Once enterprises realize you can survive with a lot fewer face-to-face interactions, travel expenses will be questioned more. Remember that the initial argument for video conferencing was that enterprises would see returns due to travel savings.”

The technology is here today

In Donald Clark’s blog he states that: “Far too little use is made of conference tech, which is largely free or very cheap. The sharing of screens, documents and presentations has become trivial.” This isn’t tomorrow’s technology, it’s actually yesterday’s; it’s all been around for a while, it’s tried, tested and people are getting good at using it.

The Learning Technology: 2020 Buyer’s Guide from Fosway highlights that a growth area in digital learning platforms includes 68% of organisations investing in virtual classrooms. This means so many organisations have access to this already.

And if not, the Verge has information about the announcements from Google and Microsoft that they are giving away their enterprise conferencing tools, for a limited time, to help organisations and educational institutes to continue to perform whilst the challenges of the Coronavirus continues.

An article in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review highlighted insights from interviews with Chief Learning Officers: “CLOs should experiment to get the right mix of face-to-face and digital learning. Cargill, which until recently allocated 80% of its budget to in-person training and only 20% to digital training, is in the process of flipping that ratio around.” I obviously think this is great news, as the variety of online training options that blend together can work really well.

“Senior leaders are loving the flexibility that digital instruction provides”

The article goes on about a leadership development programme that was put online: “Senior leaders initially had reservations about the effectiveness of digital instruction and worried about losing opportunities to network and build relationships. But those misgivings were short-lived. The first three cohorts who tried the online learning ended up enjoying the experience so much that they engaged in more training than was required. ‘What we’re seeing,’ Dervin said, ‘is that this goes hand in glove with the pace and the rhythms of their day-to-day, and they’re loving the flexibility it provides’.”

These are senior leaders using digital learning and easily using the technology, getting over the lack of face to face interaction and also finding that there is flexibility within people’s daily work schedules with this way of learning.

With CLOs in organisations experiencing how good live online training, meeting and events can be, it means that corporate strategies might just get the update and investment that they need in the time, skills development and resources to do this really well.

In his newsletter, Gerd said of virtual keynote, “this will take some serious adjusting but I think it can be quite fruitful, in its own way.” I’m not sure it’s that big an adjustment – it’s just communicating and connecting in a different way. It looks like maybe I’m not the only person to think so. Gerd has had to increase the available webinar slots to 500 people as the first 100 sold out in less than 24 hours.

Live online and you

If you need support with your own live online training, you can listen to our podcast, join our community to ask questions, and speak to use about training for your teams.

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