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Adapting Work Environments for a New Normal

Dan Smoot
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I can’t believe it has been 12 months since the world locked down from the pandemic. A year ago, I was just finishing up a business trip from Europe and was back in my San Francisco office when we decided to close the office for two weeks. We all packed up and prepared to work remotely for the next few weeks, but then two weeks quickly became two months, then four, etc. We all know the story. Fast forward and here we are today still working from home one year later. It is amazing what we have learned to adapt and change the way we work and how we engage with our customers.

Virtually overnight, we enabled our employees to safely work from home and introduced new capabilities to make everyone productive. Company plans were suddenly challenged, and significant amounts of time were unexpectedly allocated to understanding and guessing the implications of the pandemic. There was no playbook to reference what to do when one billion workers suddenly work entirely from home, because their offices have shut down, while other businesses completely shut down. For businesses around the globe, discussions of growth and expansion were replaced with discussions contemplating furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts in an effort to maintain business continuity. I think we all underestimated the increase in our personal workloads and the reality of Zoom fatigue and how quickly that would set in, but we have continued to adjust and thrive. The ability to pivot in times of crisis is something we have all mastered this past year and is a lesson we will not soon forget.

While some markets felt pain, other markets flourished. Cloud and security became top of mind. Companies began to accelerate their cloud-first strategies to address the growing demands of a nomadic workforce and rethought their future physical infrastructure requirements, including real estate. A new normal was forming that will change the way we work moving forward. For Riverbed, that meant accelerating our strategy to move from an appliance-heavy business to an end-user performance business. Our Client Accelerator product enabled users to have an in-office experience accessing applications while they worked from home or anywhere, without negatively impacting productivity.

Companies were also faced with a new challenge: visibility of their infrastructure and new risks of vulnerabilities with everyone away from the safe haven of their office. Increasing demands on monitoring networks and applications put pressure on IT organizations to provide solutions to ensure business continuity and security. Riverbed’s unified visibility platform helped customers overcome these challenges and more importantly, helped customers through challenges when other products proved to be insufficient or exposed vulnerabilities.

The word “hybrid” has taken on a new meaning this past year and we have proven that many industries can and will work from anywhere. The need to create a secure and seamless experience for employees and customers, both in the office and remotely, will remain part of the fabric of our work life going forward.

Another learning through the pandemic was adapting the sales and customer relationships in this new environment. Being able to create a connection with the customer without being face to face can be challenging. However, new creative communication vehicles became critical for developing and maintaining customer connections and establishing value in a virtual environment became the new art. Through virtual customer events, sales kickoffs, partner summits and customer executive sponsorships, we were able to stay ahead of the curve and provide our sales teams and customers what they needed to be successful. We began to master virtual events and create experiences that could scale much broader than being trapped in a single location. This allowed us to share experiences to broader audiences that may not have an opportunity to travel even in normal circumstances.

The pandemic has been challenging for everyone on both a personal and professional level. It has forever changed us, the way we live and the way we work. As leaders in the business, the crisis has changed the way communicate, engage and lead in times of ambiguity and uncertainty with a higher sense of empathy and purpose. As we look ahead to a world where the pandemic is not at the forefront, I know there is a new normal on the horizon and we have learned a great deal this year that will help us all navigate what’s next. Finally, we must all take note of our experiences and pass our learnings on to the next generation of business leaders to prepare them for something that we did not have the opportunity to prepare for ourselves.

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