COVID-19 and its impact on the labor force, team collaboration, and remote work.

Leading up to this Spring many thought the US economy was due for a natural correction after so many years of growth since the ’08 financial crisis. It would have been something predictable in line with the US’ natural growth & contraction to keep us on our historical pace (~2-2.5%). Wow. How the narrative has changed…

Here’s some perspectives on COVID-19 and its impact to the labor force, team collaboration, and remote work.

On Impact to Business & the Workforce…

Whether the virus’ impact lasts another 6 months, or masks & ‘no-large-gatherings’ is a new normal… it’s already been a remarkable accelerant of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The classic case we all know… Uber & Lyft: Their cost of service is mainly from the driver. Their incentive… Massive driverless technology investments. COVID-19 smashed their more recent challenges of overcoming perceptions on passenger safety (sexual misconduct, assault, etc), and controversy on healthcare for their independent contractor workforce (or lack thereof). Driverless tech is THAT much more vital, now.

Any restaurant or grocery store that hadn’t invested in off-premise tech is struggling to adapt. Amazon is booming, but their continual pain is the distribution center “heros” (that’s another story altogether!). There are winners and losers, but those that adapt quickly, will help their chances in this environment immensely.

Over a 28 day period, Atlassian Summit 2020 was converted into a live, digital event. Previously planned for the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, it would have attracted 5,000-7,000 attendees. It became a 100% remote, and garnered 40,000+ attendees. Think it’s smart of them to leverage this in the future? I think so too.

Still, I fear we will all return to a labor market that’s finding out it can further do without some of us.

On Social Distancing in Business…

On the Business/Enterprise side, companies like Zoom, #Atlassian, and Microsoft are benefitting hugely by these shifting dynamics. When there’s work to be done… sending your workforce home doesn’t take away your need to maintain collaboration velocity. Competitive advantage will be hinged on these capabilities. Assuming teams remain physically healthy (along with their families), companies should take this as an opportunity to improve team behaviors and to invest in more collaboration capabilities & configurations. If you’re using email to store and exchange work, you’re way behind.

This pandemic will shine a light on your collaboration weaknesses. Inefficient teams will become more inefficient, knowledge silos will become more glaring, and everything your team did in the hallways or with “drive-by” requests will continue to get piled & lost on email.

A crisis is an opportunity to change for the better and accelerate when others are just putting their keys in the ignition. Shameless plug… we help #Jira / #Atlassian customers do this, and we’re doing it now. Whatever manifestation of your team’s PPM, ITSM, SLDC, or business team (HR, Security, Legal, Finance, Marketing) needs, we can enable it.

On Opening Up the Economy…

A continual worry is for financially vulnerable families. Yes… we’ve seen the $1200/mo UBI-style stimulus come and go, there are certain borrowing deferments. it is hard to think what the next 3 months will look like for families who were already on the edge of default.

Broadly, as much as reasonably possible (and with continual education on methods of prevention), we should be prepared to manage our own risks and continue on. Outside of the noise of the media, the recommendations of NIH/CDC experts, and politicians… individuals and their families must be given credit here to make the best decisions for themselves. We are all educated enough now (8+ weeks into this) on how our behaviors can affect our fellow citizens.

Telangana, the state in which our India office sits, has a population of 35 million. It has ~3,000 confirmed cases (as of May 6). Yes, testing abilities and PPE aren’t coming fast enough (for everyone), but much of the state has been in true lockdown for weeks, with the law enforcing it vigorously on the streets. It’s not sustainable. I say this recognizing there are some families who have lost loved ones, alone in a hospital, unable to have the opportunity to say goodbye.

We have to remember that businesses and people are highly adaptable and must be allowed to exercise that muscle. That goes for both our ability to quarantine ourselves, and our ability to move forward with work. 

I love that old saying… “Ships in the harbor are safest, but that’s not what ships were built for.” CNN will tell you it’s “the perfect storm” out there. FoxNews will tell you it’s 72 & sunny. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be safe. Our actions can harm our neighbors and friends. Still, I trust in all of you.

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