May 19, 2020

The New Workforce Shift in the Pandemic: Four Truths in Our New Reality

In just six weeks, the world as we know it has changed in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. While the effects have been incredibly severe and devastating, the current Covid-19 crisis will essentially be viewed as a short-term global issue in regards to self-quarantine and complete lockdown of many business operations. However, even as countries and states make the first tentative steps to reopening economies, it’s clear that the past few weeks will have long-lasting repercussions in the way that every industry, especially oil and gas, across the planet operates.

It’s important to remember this is not our first global pandemic. It last occurred in 2009 with the H1N1 virus. At that time, plenty of modern technologies existed that brought people together digitally and improved communication and collaboration, but workers were not truly remotely connected. Cloud technology was not universally accepted, and VPNs were the norm resulting in a disconnect.  11 years has provided us with countless upgrades on technology that can help facilitate changes in working behavior, provided the correct management processes are also in place.

There are four truths that every business should understand in our new reality when designing and implementing these processes:

1. The current normal state is unsustainable

 We can’t continue to work in the same disconnected way that we did in 2009. We’ve seen a new set of tools like Office 365, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom spike in usage over the past few weeks as users longed for a way to stay connected. These tools drive collaboration and communication regardless of where the users are located.

But what about utilizing technology advances in our own Oil and Gas E&P domain? Cloud storage, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have shown the power of integrated data utilization workflows, but many of us still work within our own silos. The result is multiple isolated documents, users manually exporting and distributing of files, resulting in a decoupling of data and communication resulting in a lack of consistent knowledge sharing. These challenges are not new, but today’s reality removes and exposes a lack of informal communication pathways such a coffee breaks or water cooler chats. Sadly the current crisis has exacerbated an already fragile oil and gas ecosystem at a time of high resource turnover resulting in vital knowledge loss as people leave the industry.

2. There is a Path Forward

The classic one-line definition of Knowledge Management came from Tom Davenport (Davenport, 1994): “Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.”  Seems clear, but here we are in 2020 still trying to determine the definition.

Knowledge management helps gather the power from your entire organization and use it incrementally and intuitively to improve your daily operations through knowledge-sharing organizational structures, processes, and tools.

The oil and gas industry is embracing new approaches in knowledge management to increase efficiencies and reduce knowledge loss. The Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) is an industry-driven initiative to encourage data sharing between applications and a new breed of cloud-native software platforms that promise to allow users to work in virtual teams, seamlessly sharing information and insights alike.

Ikon Science is at the forefront of this revolution. Our acquisition of the iPoint data management platform and subsequent integration with our existing product portfolio of specific G&G applications has provided a data and knowledge sharing platform, unrivaled in this space. Combining this with our consultant’s expertise in both E&P and data management workflows allows us to action real change to our clients quickly whilst maximizing the beneficial impacts.

And later this year, we will unveil our next-generation collaboration platform, building on this foundation to further deliver on our promise to provide holistic E&P Knowledge Management. Our expanding range of services, technologies, and distribution channels result in cohesive and on-demand access to not just data, but insights and knowledge across our client organizations – enabling improved decision making and improved results at the well site.

3. Distancing has become the new norm

At least nine-tenths (91%) of the world’s population, or 7.1 billion people, live in countries with restrictions on people arriving from other countries who are neither citizens nor residents, such as tourists, business travelers, and new immigrants. Roughly 3 billion people, or 39%, live in countries with borders completely closed to noncitizens and nonresidents, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of border closure announcements and United Nations population data.

As businesses reopen, new rules may apply including spacing employees, revolving shifts, reinstalling cubicles, or considering the “six-foot” distancing rule with existing staff. Managing and maintaining communication gateways in this time will be paramount to the success of any company.

4. Remote working is not going away

A Gartner, Inc. survey of 229 HR leaders on April 2 revealed that nearly 50% of organizations reported 81% or more of their employees are working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Another 15% of those surveyed said 61-80% of employees are working remotely at this time. This same survey stated this trend will continue.

It’s been proven that remote working is possible across all sectors and that communication systems have matured where face-to-face meetings are now considered optional. While offices will re-open and re-populate, we have to ask – will we ever return to pre-Covid 19 work practices in a world of six-feet distancing which appears to be the new normal? Even Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey recently said he is leaving the decision to either work from home or at the office in the hands of his employees.

Lack of testing, disjointed childcare, implementing split shifts work and different supply and demand needs-based an industry-to-industry basis are likely to make returning to work both gradual and messy, according to experts and executives. Discussions about lack of childcare options, resuming long commutes and the danger of public transportation also have started conversations that have never occurred before. The mentalities of employees who have successfully worked from home have changed with both increased productivity and increased work/life balance.

Put simply, the way we work has changed forever. Companies are going to need to acclimate to the new normal and adapt to the idea that the future is not what we once anticipated it to be.  Maintaining and growing productivity will be possible as technology leads the way in the transformation of businesses can move forward, but that must be paired with appropriate processes and implementation strategies to ensure the potential of this technological revolution can be realized. Ikon Science is proud to identify itself as a company with a breadth of experience in applying a technologically driven change to clients and we look forward to continuing to empower our users as the industry moves forward through these uncertain times.

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