Imagine walking through the streets of London at 11 o’clock in the morning. You look up at the towering buildings and they’re empty. They’re so empty you feel it. You look down the streets and they’re quiet too, with only a sprinkling of people here and there. This is how a colleague described the city after everyone began working from home. We’ve all heard similar descriptions from colleagues and friends around the world who describe once bustling cities as quiet shells of their former, vibrant selves.
The world has gone remote.
People are working from home in a way we would never have thought possible back in January. This is a paradigm shift and the consequences will be long-lasting. So many previously taken-for-granted assumptions no longer apply. For example, one of our clients decided to move to Manhattan a few months before the pandemic. He wanted to be in the center of it all. Today he says it’s the worst decision he has ever made. He feels isolated. Another client redesigned his office and hasn’t seen anyone walk through his doors since renovations were completed.
We’re in a transition—one imposed on us by circumstances beyond our control. For most of us, this transition involves leveraging people, capital, and technology to meet the demands of a new world.
How we frame the problem before us is important. Early on in the pandemic, health officials asked us to start socially distancing. It wasn’t long before we reframed that to say we were physically distancing. It seemed important to say we could remain socially close while maintaining physical distance. We may be working remotely, but we can leverage technology to ensure we’re all able to work in a way that works for us and the people we serve.
The whole world is clearly in transition. This means that we’re all pivoting in some way and are under additional stress. Too much stress isn’t good for the capacity of our brains. Our brains become slower and research suggests there comes a point where we begin to make poor decisions when we’re stressed. Having people in your network who can provide perspective on your perspective is crucial to improving your chances of success. So, as the world moves to remote working, take time to build a community of people who can provide perspective on your perspective. That can be friends, coaches, study groups, mastermind groups, or colleagues who are a few degrees removed from the dynamics of your own work context.
If this pandemic had arrived ten years previously, few of us would have pivoted as successfully as we have. Fortunately, we have reached a point where we can leverage technology to adapt to our new world. Take, for example, the smartphone. TED.com has been using iPhones to film their talks remotely. Twenty years ago, only expensive cameras could create high-quality films. Today, we all carry cameras in our pockets and most of us have access to resources that, if leveraged, can help us transition to this new world of working remotely. In this new context, I now enjoy Zoom dinners with friends and family in a previously unimaginable way. Instead of looking at what we can’t do, we can choose to focus on what we can do. We can focus on how we use the resources in our environment to wade through the new normal.
We have heard stories of companies implementing new software across their entire workforce in a matter of weeks, something that would have previously taken months or even years. To accomplish such impressive tasks, many of us have been working around the clock at rates that are not sustainable. How we pace ourselves in the months ahead will be important to sustainability both personally and professionally. If we take time to pace ourselves, we’ll be in the strongest possible position to work with the people we serve. In the midst of so much change, it’s important that we pay attention to pace. We all need to find a pace that’s sustainable, both personally and professionally.
We’re undoubtedly in difficult times and there are a few things we all need to think about as we navigate our unfolding new world. As we face new challenges, we need to ensure we frame them in ways that help us find optimal solutions. We need to surround ourselves with those who can provide perspective on our perspective. We need to work to leverage the resources in our ecosystem and we need to be mindful of the pace at which we approach the world.
Advice like ‘Measure twice, cut once’ or ‘Go slow to go fast’ seems to have increasing relevance in my circles where we’re all quickly figuring out how best to work remotely. It’s up to each of us to consciously navigate the world in ways that increase our chances of success.