Lessons learned in our new normal

by Sean Cline ([email protected]) 376 views 

The pandemic has drastically impacted companies and organizations across the board in our communities. Businesses with diverse and thriving office cultures have been forced to adapt quickly or face severe consequences. In Northwest Arkansas, many have discovered novel solutions to manage their businesses and teams.

The pandemic may have upended what was “normal,” but by embracing change, companies can — and have — become even stronger than before. Like others, Atlas Technology Group implemented new strategies to overcome unforeseen obstacles presented by the pandemic. We found ways to make sure we delivered the same high-quality service and inevitably grew stronger during a crisis.

We hope these lessons translate to other local businesses in the region:

Turn on your cameras during meetings to see and be seen. With social distancing seemingly a mainstay of the next year, we need to enable connection in isolation. When Atlas teammates could no longer enjoy in-person client meetings, company get-togethers and social outings, we encouraged people to turn on their cameras. They could still connect this way, making sure their internal relationships — which inspire so much collaboration at work — stayed alive and well.

After all, the best work and innovation come from happy, purpose-driven employees. Being on camera keeps internal and client interactions genuine. Dogs barking, kids stumbling in, pots and pans clanking in the background are humanizing and make relationships more authentic.

Embrace being away from the office. COVID-19 forced us to reimagine work and many lamented the potential loss of company cohesion. But output across the board hasn’t decreased. Companies today can be as productive and innovative — if not more so — if they are imaginative in approaching collaboration. We’re learning that shared office space isn’t the only essential ingredient, and many of the positives we’ve managed to take away from the transition to remote are, in fact, characteristic traits of the region we call home. The way we meet our clients’ needs will be different. Still, we anticipate a future where local qualities (the young, burgeoning tech talent pool brings fantastic enthusiasm to work, for example) and attributes lead to a business boom as we (safely) emerge from these challenging times.

Make use of virtual happy hours. Keep up the momentum internally. Schedule virtual happy hours that welcome fun backgrounds. One method we have employed is companywide weekly stand-up meetings where employees are asked to come up with stories sparked by questions like, “What’s your guilty pleasure?” or “What would you name your boat and why?” Then we cast votes, and the best answer wins a prize.

Keeping employees from burning out and doomscrolling creates grounds for a better culture than before. And good culture reflects in the work each person does. Our cultural response to the pandemic has become an integral part of our growth trajectory and has set our course for a different, but equally positive, future than we’d anticipated.

Capture the energy of Northwest Arkansas. A big part of our local businesses’ success stems from our region’s vitality, and it’s why we believe Northwest Arkansas will bounce back strong from the pandemic. A resiliency to this crisis is natural for companies from Bentonville. The community is vibrant and growing, and we benefit and participate in the emergent talent landscape. Businesses should use tactics that deliberately attempt to capture the region’s energy — a smart, tech-focused base of problem solvers, hard worker and creative minds. That is the crucial ingredient for growth moving forward.

Sean Cline is executive vice president of client services at Atlas Technology Group in Bentonville. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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