By: Lou Monaghan on May 29th, 2020
Pants Required! What the Global Pandemic Has Taught Us So Far
By now, few of us haven't seen or shared a video of unfortunate souls attending a video meeting while only appropriately attired from the waist up. Bearing those horrifically embarrassing and forever cached on the internet moments in mind, I'm going to start this blog with the conclusion. The number one rule for working during a pandemic is Pants Are Required.
Regardless of the humorous nature of those moments, and while we haven't completed this particular journey, I think we can reflect on the lessons we've learned so far.Working from home works
As the internet age progressed, we've become increasingly interconnected with one another via technological means. Advances in the internet's underlying technology and improvements in infrastructure have increased bandwidth and reduced the latency of those connections. From a business perspective, these changes have enabled us to build work from home solutions.
At IOI, we have comprehensive experience with the "work at home" model as many of us have worked happily from home offices for years. Before the pandemic, there had been some resistance to expanding the model to people who work in more traditional centralized locations.
This resistance has various sources. In many cases, the opposition boils down to control. After all, the easiest way for managers to ensure their employees are engaged is to observe them in controlled environments.
The global pandemic has forced companies that are resistant to the "work at home" model to do exactly that. It seems employees have been productive while working at home, even considering people may now have to tend to younger family members' needs. In essence, the pandemic is forcing skeptical management to put work at home policies in place. Far from employees sitting at home and watching kitten videos, they have been involved actively with their jobs under uncommonly stressful conditions.
It's too soon to have actual metrics on the overall impact on efficiency working at home at scale has had on companies. Still, at the very least, we can say that organizations resistant to the model are successfully meeting their clients' needs. In some cases, the forced execution of the "work from home" model has been so successful that companies like Facebook and Twitter are making their work from home solutions permanent.
Finding the right technology stack
The last several months have shown the value of failing and iterating solutions quickly. For example, watching my local school district go from no homeschooling opportunities to creating an online interim learning solution for over 6700 students in two weeks was astonishing. And let's face it, historically, school districts aren't known for adapting rapidly. Yet, during the month following putting a solution in place, the administration made both small and significant adjustments to their program, better tuning it to the students' and teachers' needs. The final solution demonstrated the commitment of our town's education team and the maturity of the available technology.
There are many solutions in place that accommodate work at home tech-stacks. As people who help develop these solutions, we must recommend highly accessible, secure, and redundant solutions. When we consider creative operations, bandwidth, and particularly latency are of critical importance.
There is no one size fits all solution. Still, we undoubtedly now have a much more precise understanding of the standard requirements for work from home technology stacks. Additionally, we've been able to fine-tune those solutions based on individual industries' specific needs.
Several video conferencing programs have become wildly popular during the pandemic. Everything from virtual happy hours to inspiring combinations of video chat and online games allows people to stay connected.
In many ways, these innovative solutions have demonstrated that they are the best answer in this situation, but not the penultimate form of communication. An important realization is that we may have been taking face to face time with clients and co-workers for granted.
When I first started with IOI as a support engineer, the importance of reaching out to clients via phone and not just addressing their concerns over e-mail was stressed continually. The opportunities I've had to work directly with IOI's sales team and their clients have confirmed the incredible power of being physically present.
While video conferencing seems to be the best in class solution for our current situation, it also has demonstrable weaknesses that reinforce the hierarchical value of the type of technologies we use. Ordered from the least to the most effective, I would list them as e-mail, phone, video-conferencing, and face-to-face. At each step, when moving from e-mail towards face-to-face communication, we gain a considerable amount of information required to communicate effectively.
I doubt that I'm the only one who looks forward to the return of face-to-face meetings where we can take advantage of all of the subtle nuances that complete communication requires.
Before concluding, and regardless of the light-hearted way I started this blog, I hope that you and your families are doing and stay well. These are challenging times when many people have suffered incredible losses and are also coming together as communities to support one another.
We are still learning. Circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic bring out both the best and the worst of us, but it's been my experience that we thrive in adversity and will come out the other side stronger, better informed, and prepared for the future.
In the end, pants, remember pants, they're essential.
About Lou Monaghan
Louis Monaghan, Jr. has been a Senior Systems Engineer since 2011. He began his professional career in the commercial print industry as a prepress professional. During his time in prepress, he was able to combine his love of print with a passion for computing and began automating manual processes to increase productivity. His knowledge of technology evolved alongside a growing industry, and Lou quickly became an expert in automating creative workflows. At IO Integration, Lou helps educate clients, allowing them to unlock the full potential of their software solutions, creating speed and efficiency wherever he goes.
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