2019 may be the last year that will seem “normal” for quite some time. Industries, institutions, governments, countries – the whole world will be feeling the effects of COVID-19 for years to come. But what does that mean for corporate conferences?
COVID and Conferences
Professional, annual, and corporate conferences of all shapes and sizes were hit hard this year. Those that had the misfortune of being scheduled near the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns in March were simply canceled. Later events were postponed, sometimes more than once, in the hopes that things would get “back to normal” soon.
As the summer months came, businesses, schools, and governments started pivoting away from “getting back to normal” in favor of creating a “new normal”. And corporate events were no exception. Those professionals hosting and planning conferences who had decided to wait it out to see if the later months of 2020 would be better for their events have realized it’s not going to happen. At least – not in the way they happened pre-COVID.
They were left with two choices: cancel the 2020 corporate conference and try again – hopefully – in 2021, or host the conference online.
Can We Afford to “Wait It Out”?
One of the biggest problems with “waiting it out” to see if COVID-19 will go away is there are no clear timelines for this pandemic. Just like those events that were rescheduled – and then rescheduled again – there is no way to know for sure that waiting until 2021 will guarantee your conference of 1,200 people will be feasible in a single physical location.
Many of the businesses hit hardest this year failed to pivot their offerings and business practices to account for social distancing and shutdown guidelines. Those who did pivot, while many still experienced losses (especially in the early months of the pandemic), are hoping to keep their doors open for another year.
The big question is: if you wait it out and next year looks much the same as the last few months, have you missed an opportunity to salvage some of your conference business this year and be ready for whatever 2021 brings?
Migration to Digital
Necessity has driven many events to online platforms this year, but why was this not a more popular option in the past? The technology has been around for years.
An interview by Brink News with Tony D’Amelio (a 50-year veteran of the corporate event industry) cites “lack of user comfort” for the slow adoption process.
New technology is divisive. You have people who want to jump in and use the tech right away, and there are others who think the well-worn path is best. All that changed this year when jobs, classrooms, and even grocery shopping had to jump ship and grab onto that virtual hosting life raft to stay afloat. Out of necessity, virtual platforms and online meetings are now a common, trusted tool for conducting business.
Corporate Conferences in the Digital Landscape
Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams – these platforms are now the forefront of communication and virtual conferences. As these tools evolve, they continue to add features that enhance the value of online or virtual conferences.
Some benefits of online conferences can help offset costs and increase attendee engagement. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on a venue – participants can attend sessions in the comfort of their own home or office.
Big-name presenters are still just as sought-after, but now, everyone has a front-row seat. There’s no rush to get a good seat in the auditorium, no straining to hear the speaker in a room with too many chairs and bad acoustics.
Even networking events can be hosted on many of these platforms. While nothing will beat those in-person mixers and trade show conversations, many software developers are creating virtual rooms that can mirror these big gatherings.
Take Your Event Online with Meet Me In The Cloud
Hosting an online event, like hosting an in-person event, will never be without its difficulties. But with the right guidance and training, your virtual corporate conference could be just as good as your last physical event.
Need help organizing your online conference? Let Meet Me In The Cloud help with their collection of event assist services.
Most business leaders are preparing for the Future of Work now, but some are coming against roadblocks, which is halting business progress. To prepare for these potential roadblocks in your workplace, you first need to know where they come from.
The first roadblock to the Future of Work is employees and leaders who are stuck in the past. When asked “Why do you do it this way?” they answer “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.” When encouraged to try something new, they refuse. They are old school in how they approach work. These employees are focused on traditional or habitual thinking and reject change.
The Future of Work, on the other hand, requires forward-thinking. Those pursuing the Future of Work recognize what history and tradition teach us about our futures, but they don’t stop there. They embrace the present and anticipate the future, always looking for ways to improve processes and their mindset concerning work.
Lack of Transferable Skills
In our modern workplace, a growing number of employees (about 40% of Millennials, specifically) change jobs every few years, and employers expect this. Because of this, companies focus on hiring for the short-term, which means fewer companies provide training for new employees. Not only does this mean entry-level jobs require experience, which is a problem in and of itself for college graduates, but this focus also makes it harder for employees to switch careers, climb the corporate ladder, and return to the workplace after an extended leave.
With employers providing less training to their employees and automating more processes, employees can fall behind on hard and soft skills that are critical in the workplace. Without the company’s leadership to direct them in their development, employees look elsewhere for education and training.
While this self-driven search for personal and professional development, there becomes a wider divide between employees: skills inequality. With this type of inequality increasing in the workplace, companies may realize that their company culture starts to sour, causing large initiatives to slow or fail.
Failing Team Culture
As companies start pursuing the Future of Work and implementing modern initiatives, such as Work From Anywhere (WFA), some may run into an unexpected roadblock concerning team communications. Collaboration platforms are implemented, but teams act fragmented.
Cisco Webex says, “When it comes to how people collaborate, form follows function.”
This means that if a remote team can no longer collaborate with tools in place, then it’s important not to blame the tools for the challenges. Instead, the roadblock is actually the team’s culture. The team likely can hardly collaborate in an in-person environment, so they do not transition well to a remote environment.
One cause of this may be the size of the team. If a team is too large, they can be ineffective because they are taking up a lot of time and energy to come to an agreement. On the other hand, smaller teams with clear accountability often perform better because they are focused on getting things done instead of appeasing the entire team.
Another cause of the fractured culture may be the leadership. If teams are empowered and individuals are allowed to be independent while they WFA, they will flourish. But if the company or leadership focuses on controlling the remote team, the team culture will be harmed and individual employees won’t perform as desired.
The Future of Work in your company depends on your employees and leadership team. You decide where the company is going and how long it will take to get there. Where are you headed right now? What changes does your organization need to make for the future? What roadblocks do you need to get rid of in order to pursue the Future of Work?
If your company needs guidance for transitioning to a new collaboration platform or learning how to use one, learn more about our collaboration services here and learn more about our training services here.
All workers can experience burnout when they go through an extended period of stress. This happens in all work environments, including Work From Home (WFH) environments.
Remote workers often experience burnout for many reasons. One primary reason is that they are typically more productive than their office counterparts. This productivity is wonderful for the company, but if not handled properly, it can backlash. Burned out employees suffer emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Why do remote workers experience burnout? By working from home, they no longer take the time to commute to work, take part in office chit-chat, or office lunches. Those office perks not only help build camaraderie, but they also provide boundaries and buffers in the workday, benefiting employees emotionally, physically, and mentally.
How Can You Prevent Burnout?
To prevent burnout, you need to take care of your emotional, physical, and mental well-being during and surrounding your work. You can do this by creating boundaries, prioritizing your work, and creating a routine.
Create Boundaries For Yourself
You will need to create many boundaries for yourself in order to prevent burnout, including physical boundaries, time boundaries, and technology boundaries.
You can work anywhere in your house, but you likely know which areas will be the least productive for your workflow. You don’t need a home office to set up physical boundaries for your workday. You just need a dedicated place where you work. If your kitchen table is too messy and your couch is too cozy, create a space somewhere that is quiet but not too relaxing.
Implement boundaries with this workspace. When you are working, only sit or stand in that specific area. When you are using your laptop or phone for personal uses, be sure to walk away from that designated space. This lets your brain and family or roommates know that you are walking away from work, even if you still need to use your devices.
Many people who WFH feel like they always need to be “on.” This sense of loyalty and urgency makes work hours bleed into every other hour of the day. That pressure, while usually self-induced out of guilt, is what causes burnout. To avoid this, set up time boundaries for yourself.
If your employer does not require you to work during certain hours, then create your own schedule around work meetings and other commitments. Use the flexibility of WFH to create the ideal schedule for yourself. If you can, work when you perform the best, whether that is in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Try time blocking to get started until you start to work in a consistent rhythm. Be aware that this schedule may change according to seasons of the year and seasons in your life. Embrace the flexibility when your current schedule no longer works for you by creating a new schedule.
Depending on your job, you may spend a lot of time using various technologies and devices. If you also like to use those devices outside of work, set up boundaries for your technology.
If you’re tempted to check your work email outside of work hours, turn off email notifications or remove your work email account from your mobile phone.
If you’re tempted to work long hours, set a timer for the start and end times of your workday. Listen to the timer.
If you have a boss or coworkers who expect to connect with you outside your working hours, clarify your schedule with them. Be firm about your availability and don’t change it unless absolutely necessary.
When you’re on a deadline, go offline as much as you can. Update your status to “Do Not Disturb” in your collaboration tool to inform your coworkers and boss that you’re working but busy. Put your phone on airplane mode. Don’t check your email. Take this time to focus on your project and remove all of the distractions you can.
Prioritize Your Work
While working remotely, it can be tempting to do all the work that shows your productivity versus doing the work that needs to be done first. This is often called “busy work.” These small tasks stack up and may look great as you check them off of your to-do list, but doing so can cause mounting pressure to complete larger projects on tight deadlines.
To avoid adding stress, prioritize your work at the beginning of the workday or at the end of the workday for the next day. Then only adjust that task list if urgent items arise. If non-urgent items arise, stick to the task list you created today and determine if those new items belong on your priority list tomorrow.
Create a Routine
It’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted when working from home. Family members or roommates may be home, dishes and laundry are piling up, and suddenly the carpet needs to be deep cleaned. This is why creating a routine for your WFH life is so important. It’s easy to ignore many housekeeping tasks at the office, but in this new environment, you need to create a new routine.
Your new routine can be exactly as it used to be, minus the commute, but it doesn’t have to be. Based on your schedule, take note of what distracts you while you’re working. If the dishes distract you, can you do them before work? Or can you work outside of the kitchen?
Whatever your situation is, take note of your distractions and create a routine to minimize them. This can mean working at different times to accommodate family members or roommates. It can also mean working in a different room.
Many WFH professionals have very specific morning, lunchtime, and evening routines that punctuate their days and provide a sense of timeliness, even if they never leave their home. We encourage you to develop the right routines that work for you and provide you with structure for your days.
One common routine many remote workers swear by is continuing to “get ready” in the morning. Working in pajamas can be fun at first, but after a while, you may find that taking the time to put on work clothes and fix your hair or mustache helps put you in the right frame of mind for work. Plus, it’s beneficial to maintain that routine for days you do visit an office or have in-person appointments.
Another common routine that WFH employees have is getting exercise. Whether you choose to work out or take a walk in the morning, at lunch, or in the afternoon, it’s healthy for your body and mind to move and get outside.
Working from home or from anywhere is a wonderful experience that has many benefits, but it’s important to be proactive with your health and the health of your team in order to prevent burnout.
To learn how Meet Me In The Cloud can help you connect and collaborate with your team, easing some of the stress of working from home, visit this link.
Many companies that pursue a technology migration on their own in an effort to save money deal with a host of challenges. They don’t take the time or complete the planning and training they need for a successful migration. Save your leadership team (and employees) the headache with these tips.
Whenever you roll out new tech in your organization, there are bound to be skill gaps in your workforce. IT staff and end-users and accustomed to the legacy solution, which likely works and looks very different from the new solution you’re in the process of migrating to. This is normal, but that doesn’t mean you can roll out new solutions and just wait for your employees to figure it out. That costs time, which costs your company money.
To fill these skill gaps, you need training. Training and education efforts not only save you time implementing the new solution, but it also provides your employees with the confidence to use the solution and in their work overall. Not only does training help ensure that you receive a high ROI, but it also benefits your workforce on an individual level.
A roadmap is a high-level visual plan that lays out your migration strategy. Without it, your team won’t be able to make sound strategic decisions concerning the migration. Or, worse, they will migrate your solution without a strategy in mind. This can lead to an ineffective migration.
Another problem companies face when migrating a solution without a roadmap is that there are no timelines. If there are timelines, they are inaccurate and the migration falls behind, which can potentially cause more problems later on.
To resolve this issue, it’s important to develop a roadmap at the beginning of the migration process, before any data has been moved. Then make sure the team fulfilling the migration is following the roadmap.
Deadlines and details can change, but a high-level, strategy-focused roadmap is key to a successful migration.
During the migration, your workforce will likely be using two solutions, the old and the new. This means that with every update to one document, file, channel, etc., it needs to be updated on both solutions to keep everyone in the loop. This duplication process is time-consuming and the redundancy can be confusing for users, but it may be necessary.
It’s also important to note that if your team fulfills the migration in-house, those employees will have double the responsibility and the same amount of time and energy, which means their other tasks will be sidelined during the migration.
To limit the impact on your workforce’s productivity during the migration, shorten the migration time. One way to do this is to hire a migration expert, like from Meet Me In The Cloud, to manage the process.
Another way to reduce the impact on your workforce’s productivity is to complete the migration while your workforce isn’t working. For example, over a weekend or holiday break. Smaller migrations can often be completed during these timeframes, though it does require the employees performing the migration to work on the weekend or holiday.
Data Loss and Corruption
When duplicate solutions are running simultaneously during the migration process, there is a greater risk for data loss and corruption. The longer the migration process takes, the greater the risk. If data is corrupted or lost during the migration, it makes it harder to restore that data.
To avoid data loss and corruption during migration, you will need to backup all data. You will also need to determine the best way to store the data before the migration and have a plan for migrating the data in phases. Following a solid plan can reduce data loss and corruption.
Each solution has its own properties and benefits, but not all solutions prioritize compliance. Without reviewing what each vendor provides in terms of compliance, you can potentially violate compliance requirements.
If compliance is important to your business, then you need to review each solution to ensure the one you choose meets regulatory compliance requirements. This means asking vendors how data is stored and accessed, how end-users are supported, if the vendor logs all end-user activities, and more.
Often, business leaders want to replicate legacy systems in the new solution, but this defeats the purpose of the migration. No two systems work the same, so this sets up the entire migration for failure. Misaligned goals combined with unmet expectations turn the entire migration into a washout, leaving everyone frustrated.
To avoid this challenge, it’s important to have a discovery process before migrating. During this process, your leadership team needs to evaluate the old system for what is and isn’t working, and what other capabilities your business needs now or in the future. From there, your migration team or partner can design a plan to align the strategy with your leadership’s goals.
Learn more about our Migration Services at this link.
The Future of Work is here, but it is constantly changing. To be successful in the present and the future, all businesses must update how they work and prepare for transformation.
Defining the Future of Work
What is the Future of Work? At its core, the Future of Work is the sum of the changes we experience as a workforce now as well as what we expect to develop in the future. These changes include personnel transitions and expectations, technology, work styles, and more.
Cisco Webex defines the Future of Work as how we “shape, create and design [the] modern employee and customer experience.”
myHRfuture defines it as “a result of many forces of change affecting three deeply connected dimensions of an organisation: work (the what), the workforce (the who), and the workplace (the where).”
The Future of Work is comprised of five parts. Each part is vital to business success. The Future of Work is:
- Adaptable to Cultural Change
The Future of Work is Remote
It probably is no surprise to you that the Future of Work is remote. Now, more than ever, employees expect to be able to WFA at least some of the time.
To learn more about remote work, read this article.
The increase in remote work requires digital collaboration skills and solutions. If your team needs to migrate to a new collaboration platform to accommodate remote work, learn more about our services at this link.
Businesses are More Health-Focused Now Than Ever
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are responding to their employees’ health needs in new ways. Businesses are expanding how they support their employees’ health with additional health care coverage, mental health support, and financial health support.
This Forbes article says:
And as more people work remotely post-pandemic, HR will need to focus on flexibility benefits and employee assistance programs (EAPs). This goes beyond work-from-home privileges, and puts a heightened focus on things like flex-time schedules, child care benefits, and mental health support.
The Future is Tech-Forward
When it comes to the Future of Work, the technology we use is constantly changing and upgrading. This technology is automated and intelligent. It includes Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, robotics, augmentation technology, modern collaboration tools, and more.
With these advancements, employees will spend less time on repetitive tasks, physical labor, and data processing. Instead, they will focus on assignments that require social and emotional skills, logical reasoning, and creativity. This shift will allow employees to work on higher-level tasks, which will likely lead to your workforce being more fulfilled in their careers.
Is Your Business Adaptable to Cultural Change?
The Future of Work means adapting to new company cultures with an ever-changing workforce. Every day, younger employees join your workforce, changing the dynamic and culture of your company. This means businesses need to be adaptable to these changes. What created your company culture five or 50 years ago may no longer work for your current and future workforce.
Cisco Webex explains how to do this well:
That [means] creating a more creative, responsive, and less hierarchical work experience. One that encourages flexible collaboration across boundaries and borders; work/life integration; open communication; and creative freedom at every level of the organization. In a culture built on trust, the best talent thrives … and is less likely to leave!
The Future of Work is Human-Focused
With the Future of Work, jobs will be less company-focused and more human-focused. In addition to the health and culture improvements, people will be able to experience roles at other companies in other industries, which was critical for many employees and companies during the COVID-19 crisis. This is called a “cross-industry talent exchange.”
This Entrepreneur article explains the process well:
Well, it’s where unemployed people, because of this crisis, temporarily work at “organizations that have an excess of work,” such as logistics. Why is this beneficial? It helps avoid “the frictional and reputational costs associated with letting people go while supporting workers in developing new skills and networks.
Not only do employees learn new skills in a new environment, but their temporary peers get to learn from them, too. And both companies benefit from the exchange as well, helping relieve stress for the leaders on both sides of the arrangement.
This is just one example of how businesses are becoming more human-focused. The technology companies utilize will only magnify the opportunities people will have as this focus is adapted. As businesses become more human-focused, they will continue to choose options for their workforce that will benefit their employees, not just the bottom line.
As the demand for health-focused, tech-forward, and human-focused companies increases, it’s vital that your company moves into the Future of Work for the well-being of your workforce and the health of your company.
If you’re moving forward with a remote work option, consider partnering with Meet Me In The Cloud for your collaboration platform needs. Learn more about our services at this link.