“Workplace” used to be defined by physical location. Even when employees were hard at work elsewhere, from home or on the road, they were “out of the office.” When offices began to shut down in March 2020 to slow down the covid-19 pandemic, few realized that they were embarking on a fundamental and enduring transformation of the very concept of “workplace” and their relationship to it. Both workers and managers had to adjust on the fly as the weeks rolled by with no end in sight. Many companies had to deal with enabling a newly remote workforce while keeping workers productive and figuring out how the pandemic would affect their business, for better or worse. As everyone settled into the “new normal”—children and pets dropping in on video conferences, people learning how to blur their backgrounds to hide their makeshift home offices—the necessary changes began showing the way to a workplace future that might improve on the “old normal.” 

Computing and infrastructure giant Dell Technologies found itself re-examining its own assumptions about the world of work and redefining every expectation, says Jennifer Saavedra, the company’s chief human resources officer. “Early on I heard people say, ‘I just can’t wait to get back to doing things the way they were.’ That’s not ever a strategy for success,” Saavedra says. “It’s about reflecting on these last 18 months. What have we learned? What are some of the great things we want to carry forward? What were some of those challenges or obstacles? How do we renew expectations?”

Saavedra sees many “great things”: opportunities to be more efficient, productive, and inclusive, and ways for the reimagined workplace to achieve goals that were impossible before.

For example, Dell’s salesforce of more than 25,000 could never meet in one place at one time—let alone the army of human resources, finance, and marketing staff that support them. Like many companies, Dell used to hold in-person training and leadership events for all sales managers, trusting that the strategies and the sense of purpose shared at those meetings would make it out to the rank and file.

The pandemic changed all that. Suddenly, the managers couldn’t meet in person, but everyone could meet virtually, on video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Although it was a great opportunity for connection and communication, figuring out how to engage that many people in a virtual environment was a challenge, Saavedra says. “You don’t just try to replicate what you did in an in-person or classroom experience.”

Resources for developing skills or absorbing new material, often delivered in group or class settings in the old days, moved online to the Dell Learning Studio, where people could visit individually at their leisure. The group component of the events, now held virtually, focuses on collaboration and networking. “Instead of having a leadership program or training program, it’s now a training experience or a leadership experience,” Saavedra adds. “That change in language is actually reflective of the change in design.”

Dell has reimagined its entire training function: for example, individualized learning plans have

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By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: Shaping the future of hybrid work
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2022/01/13/1043401/shaping-the-future-of-hybrid-work/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2022 17:00:00 +0000