COVID-19 And How It Changed My Job At Google

For many of us, job priorities have shifted (and continue to shift) in the wake of COVID-19. Here are three principles I’m using to guide my work and get things done—despite the uncertainty.

According to a recent SHRM survey, 83% of employers have had to adjust business practices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As dining tables have become offices and meetings have become defined by video conferencing instead of conference rooms, much has been written about these changes in physical setup. However, changes in tools and processes are only part of this equation; for many, the main shift has been in the priorities of our jobs.

Cropped Hands Making Frame Against Great Wall Of China During Sunset
For many of us, job priorities have shifted (and continue to shift) in the wake of COVID-19. Here are three principles I’m using to guide my work and get things done—despite the uncertainty. GETTY
Take my case: Before we began sheltering in place, I spent lots of time traveling to present keynotes for Google Cloud. But all those live events went away as we shifted to communicating in other mediums. Before, I strategized with companies about how G Suite can improve their productivity and collaboration, their multi-year technology plans, and the future of working.

Now, many of these companies’ priorities have shifted to helping their employees succeed while working remotely full time—a little less about the future, and a little more about the present. The support they needed had evolved, and I had to as well.

To respond, I needed to take a new approach to how I got things done, supported customers, and connected and collaborated with my teammates. I did it by organizing around three themes: be informed, be efficient, and be impactful. Those may sound like abstractions. But they have specific meanings that can help guide you in your work as we navigate this time.

Guiding principles in an uncertain time: be informed, be efficient, be impactful
Be informed
I wanted to find ways to contribute and lead without stalling momentum. One of the fastest ways to stall momentum is to be uninformed or misinformed. If I bring up a topic that’s already been discussed, that’s just repetitive. And if I focus on projects that used to be top priorities but no longer serve the changing business environment, that’s not good either. When getting the real priorities done is vital, and when those priorities are changing rapidly, being informed and focused is mandatory. Information silos, duplicative processes, and misalignments help no one during a time like this.

While we can create communications and have daily briefings, in an urgent situation, that’s often neither fast enough to keep up with the pace of change nor detailed enough to answer the questions that may pertain to me, as a specific employee. While I can get answers by sending a flurry of emails, that’s not helpful to maintaining momentum; it’s also neither immediate nor scalable.

In my job, teams quickly collaborate in online documents like Google Docs to keep everyone informed in real time. Updates are automatically reflected in the document, without multiple versions floating around. I can point teammates to these up-to-date sources of truth. If I have a clarifying question or suggestion, I can comment in the document without interrupting someone. Like many ways in which technology can help, this was partly a matter of information architecture enabling new processes and partly a matter of actually adopting the processes.

Be efficient
While I am a big supporter of collaborative real-time editing in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, I also need to talk to people—and the best way to talk to people when I can’t be in person is over a video conference, using tools such as Google Meet.

For example, in writing this post, I made edits on my own throughout the day and so did others (like any work we do, writing is not a solo activity). But every day, I got on a video call to riff with peers and to literally (and I’m using that word without hyperbole) write together.

I’d toss out ideas over video, with my and my peers’ cameras on. This let us quickly look up from the document to the video feed to see one another’s reactions and facilitated a free-flowing conversation that communicated beyond the words. It doesn’t cost us anything to be on a video call—there are no limits to the number of syncs we can have on Google Meet. So we’d either schedule a time to “jam” or sometimes, impromptu, we’d jump into a Google Meet video call to write together right then. We’d honestly only speak for maybe one-tenth of the time, sitting mostly in silence and writing. It was an exact replica of what it’s like when we huddle around a table, each of us on our own laptop.

Be impactful
At the end of this crisis, I want to look back and know it mattered that I showed up to work and that I contributed to the bottom line. As I look back on my recent work, I can see that I’ve pushed our projects forward—I was more than a warm body in the room. That would have been impossible without the right systems and the right cultural adoption of what those systems enable. The work has actually been getting done. We’ve been able to put our heads down, iterate rapidly and often, and have things to show for it.

No one could have foreseen every disruption that’s happened, but by harnessing the collective power of our teams, and by being able to collaborate with colleagues even while separated, we’ve seen—more than ever—that “no one is an island.”

Getting to work
Doing the work starts with things like information architecture and technology, but the rest of the process is about how we engage with those things. Being informed is a prerequisite to being efficient, and being efficient is a prerequisite to driving impact.

What the world will look like a month from now, let alone a year, remains unknowable. But despite the unknowable, it’s clear to my peers how each of us contributes, and we are all thankful to be working together. For those of us working from home, let’s get as much done as we can.


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