The coronavirus is teaching us that some of our business traditions are actually bad for us and bad for business. Because of the impending coronavirus pandemic, businesses are re-thinking common workplace activities. In this article, I’ll identify the ones that will likely be replaced or diminished, or will go away entirely.
Bill Maher recently welcomed his interview guest on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, with a bow instead of a handshake. His guest was Dr. Anne Rimoin, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA and Director of the Fielding School’s Center for Global and Immigrant Health. She was there to talk about the coronavirus. His bow was to make a point—and it extends beyond late-night television to the corporate world. Common business greetings, ranging from shaking hands to the European double-cheek kiss (triple in some countries), might be deemed too risky. They may be replaced with the less precarious elbow bump or even bowing, which is common in many east Asian countries. All the advice on how to shake hands powerfully may be supplanted by the best techniques for bowing.
2. In-Person Meetings
Companies are already asking their people to work from home. Over time, that will make remote work the norm and with it, video teleconferences. There are so many technology tools available, from Zoom and Skype to WebEx and Telepresence. Because they are video enabled, they allow for participants to deliver a complete communication and engage with each other in a pseudo meeting room. And because it’s video, it’s less likely that participants will multi-task.
3. Team Events
The Thursday night bowling event or Friday chug and hug could go away for a time or forever because of the potential exposure to airborne germs. These team-building activities foster camaraderie and connection, but they may take a backseat as the health of staff is considered.
4. Interviewing Candidates
When you’re hiring, it’s currently possible for lots of candidates to come to your office to interview with lots of current employees, from the HR director to the hiring manager and other execs. When candidates land a coveted interview, they’re unlikely to reschedule if they’re feeling sick. Rather than expose the recruiting team to potential illness, companies may rely more on video—both live and asynchronous. Companies like videoBIO already provide the technology to allow most interviewing to happen this way. Only a short list of candidates or the actual final candidate may be invited to physically walk through the office doors.
5. Conferences and Tradeshows
Your annual trek to the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas may be put on hold because of the coronavirus, but after the medical crisis subsides, some events and conferences will be nixed forever, replaced by online replicas of the real-world tradeshow—replete with learning sessions, virtual exhibitor halls and e-networking events. Opportunities to get to know your contacts in person may eventually be replaced by an electronic facsimile.
6. Going To Work Sick
If you work in an office environment, there’s likely one or more of your colleagues who sound like Brenda Vaccaro or who have bloodshot eyes and the sniffles. It has been strangely acceptable for people to go to work sick. In fact, it’s seen as a sign of company loyalty and commitment when you show up coughing and wheezing even though it’s clear you should be in bed. That display of commitment may eventually be seen as a sign of disrespect for your colleagues. And if sick people don’t stay away from the office entirely, it will be more likely that they’ll don a facemask to prevent contaminating their colleagues. This is a sign of respect and a very common practice in many countries in Asia.
7. In-person Talent Development Programs
Many companies are already moving a lot of learning activities from traditional in-person workshops to online anytime/anywhere learning, where video is the primary learning asset. Millennials and Gen Z workers actually prefer video for learning. This move to more video training will accelerate. The biggest loss is not having all participants in the same room, learning from each other, not just from the instructor. For that reason, learning systems that enable learner interaction will be most in demand.
Only time will tell how quickly these changes will become the norm and whether they’ll be temporary or permanent. But for sure, the tagline from the 1960s Bell Telephone ads, “It’s the next best thing to being there,” will become the mantra of leaders who seek to keep their people healthy and productive.
Written by William Arruda, courtesy of Forbes