Over the last few months, the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. It has sparked a shift in the priorities of many companies, from daily operations to changes in their workforce. With more people working from home than ever before, the software sector has been forced to reckon with the implications of long-term remote operations.
Agile innovation, the profitable application of face-to-face meetings, has facilitated breakthrough solutions, optimized efficiency, and revolutionized new enterprise structures. A recent report from the Center for Creative Leadership revealed that in an online survey of more than 500 global leaders, 53% favored agile innovation and praised it as one of the top trends impacting their businesses over the next five years.
While agile innovation has hinged on face-to-face interactions and has ultimately closed the physical space between IT workers and business, there are still ways to continue that momentum in a post-COVID-19 world.
Most agile teams succeed because they're able to balance and devote time to collaboration. This may have been easier in the office, though tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams allow it to continue remotely. The ability to use status settings that show whether an employee is available or unavailable is also critical. Scheduled formal collaboration sessions are vital, but so is small talk. Checking in with co-workers, whether over the phone or online, is essential to maintaining fluid business relationships.
Brainstorming sessions can be much simpler in person, though scrum masters will find there are many ways to do this remotely. Whether this is achieved by using a digital whiteboard for design sessions, web conferencing for meetings, or using surveys to capture feedback, changing the goalposts of what success looks like is the key to future adaptation.
Even though most people are working remotely right now, the inescapable task of reintroducing workers back to the office looms on the horizon. Experts suggest this will be a combination of multiple short-term solutions to bolster employees' trust. These may include reductions in workplace staff as well as long-term office design upgrades that prioritize hygiene and health.
"We may have lived with the flu for many years, but this is the first time our generation has experienced a pandemic. We're now hyperaware of health risks, whether real or imagined. And employers are hypersensitive about the potential for liability if people get sick at work," Albert De Plazaola, Global Strategy Director at design firm Unispace told BBC.
Other implementations could include sneeze guards, a low-cost yet high-impact solution. Experts predict that we could be moving away from collaborative office spaces into ones that resemble hospitals, which use materials that can withstand heavy cleanings like laminates, stones, or solution-dyed carpets with moisture-barrier backing.
As workspaces change, so will workplace etiquette. While coming to work while sick was once regarded by some as brave, it could now become socially unacceptable.