American companies were already, for the most part, operating with disconnected employees who still developed a sense of belonging and company culture because the organization structure and processes were already set up for work from home or remote work. This has tested companies to carry out their processes on the largest scale to apply to just about every employee (depending on the market of course).
But most of all it has reinforced the need to leadership to stay more connected to their employee base and ensure their safety during this crisis. Whereas in the US, the notion of work councils, of employee protection, etc. is much weaker than elsewhere, the COVID – 19 situation is actually reenforcing a sense of culture, collective belonging, and leadership involvement.
Collective intelligence, an emerging trend
While American companies and business environments were used to remote work, the COVID 19 crisis has brought forth the fact that all levels and for all sorts of activities, collective intelligence is a strength. Every meeting, every gathering, every event has now become virtual and even in a country where remote is accepted, we are discovering the ability for everyone to re create their comfort zone for the most part. Quite clearly, in the US as in every other country, new forms of creativity as well the ability to be much more succinct and productive in day to day communications have come out.
Flexible work structure
The notion of flexible work structure existed in the US prior to the COVID-19 crisis; it was already an accepted mind set with many people living in places remote from their work place and thus commuting through long distance travel a few days a week and working from home generally on Fridays, and at times on Mondays. No questions asked – companies looked to recruit the talent where it was. While relocation might have been a necessity in the past, more and more, it became possible to just stay or live in the place of choice and negotiate only partial time in the office.
Therefore, that flexibility of the structure and the organisation – accepting that many in any one area of the company may not be in the office every day – was already prevalent. The difference now is that everyone in the enterprise world has to work from home; like in other places, this has pushed to a completely different level of productivity, but mostly a different level of communication forcing people, teams and organisations to work collectively without the burden of office politics. One aspect that clearly differentiates the American way from the more regulated environments in Europe, is the overall lack of social and labor protection – therefore the time boundaries and the business hours concept is not controlled and many employees find themselves working many more hours than pre-COVID 19.
Increasing your staff’s autonomy
While the Work From Home requirements have allowed workers to gain opportunities for innovation and new ideas to make things work – it is also a burden for many due to home conditions. So in that sense, autonomy and initiatives may have been easier in the office.
The new element that prevails though, is that every one at all levels of the organisation is in “equal” situation working from home and suddenly can have “equal” say; management is adapting to these new ways. This phenomena is equally true in Europe as it is in the US.
Agile work structures
The American labor market and the overall HR system has been quite different and less protected than in France or Europe. Therefore the notion of agile work structures was already prevalent in US companies, with no work council structures. Processes and procedures are for the most part already adapted to a workforce that may be spread out. But this will still require that organisations rethink overall their work structures, and will carry the model to remain agile and remote – opportunity for cost savings that may not have been considered to this extent in the past.
Creating a strong ecosystem
While people are of course social beings and naturally prefer to be in person, the new normal is bringing forward groups and “levels’ into a collaborative mode that may not have happened before. On the other hand, because the remote work was already accepted, in many cases, the current situation is not necessarily bring new ways – people are continuing to work and do what they were doing before; they just do it remotely.
On the other hand, and maybe more so outside the entreprise, ecosystems and collaborations are made easier because there are no distance constraints. Diverse ecosystems are therefore also rising and strengthening in the US.