Silver Linings: Six Benefits of Virtual Working that may Last Beyond the COVIDtimes

As marketing consultants specializing in everything from digital experiences and SEO to advertising and strategy, we’re trained to see challenges as opportunities. It’s impossible to ignore the human and business costs of the year 2020, but the truth is that as we’ve helped our clients adapt, pivot and grow through these times, we’ve learned a lot about process efficiency, work productivity and performance. And at least six of those lessons can continue to serve businesses well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making our own schedules can make us more productive. Working remotely, often amidst the competing needs of spouses, children, pets, and other “home” components, complicates the work-life juggling act. But it also forces us to be more flexible about how we meet deadlines and get things done. Whether we’re finding new quiet times of the day to work, taking more walks outside or just watching our children play, our flexible schedules are lending new flexibility and productivity to the way we think and work.

Less driving gives us more time. Maybe you only live five minutes from your office – and anywhere else you drove to before the pandemic. But especially in Atlanta, many of us used to lose as many as two or even three hours a day to commuting. That’s a lot of time to regain. And – bonus – if people continue to work remotely, traffic won’t be as bad even when we do choose to drive somewhere. Which also means more time back in our schedules.

It’s easy to learn new technologies when they’re necessary. Before the pandemic, implementing a new technology might have meant extensive time, testing and training. These days, there’s little time for that. We pick up techniques and apps that we might never have used before by using them (think videoconferencing and project management). We help each other out. We make mistakes and learn from them. It’s the equivalent of learning to swim by all jumping in the water together.  And we’re better at it than we may have imagined.

We need fewer meetings – and the ones we have can be more efficient. Have you noticed that since our meetings take place via phone and videoconference, we have fewer of them? Or that the meetings we have are shorter and more focused? As it turns out, many of those long, drawn out meetings of the past really CAN just be emails.

We may not need business travel and office space as much as we thought. Put all of the above together, and one thing is clear: Distributed workforces, technologies and meetings are probably here to stay. And sure – when we finally arrive in the times we’ll call “after,” we’ll want to meet in person again. But we’ll probably be more discerning about which meetings would be just as effective over the phone or via videoconference.

We benefit from touching base beyond basic conference calls. Our Relish Marketing team has taken to having Friday afternoon happy hours together. Sometimes we talk about work. Sometimes we don’t. But just seeing each other and talking the way we did while taking a break at the office has value. It makes us laugh and remember how much we enjoy each other’s company.

Of course, no one can predict the future. But we can rest assured that the flexibility, technologies, skills and perspectives we’re learning now will serve us long after the pandemic is over.