Coronavirus -- Why today's new work paradigm offers employees game-changing opportunities

As a “can-do” employee on the front lines, you’re in a great position to use your knowledge and insights to help your company through these critical times

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to change the way we work. This has presented numerous challenges, such as finding ways to stay informed, engaged, and connected. But like any challenge, this shift also presents opportunities for game-changing innovation when it’s needed most.

As business leaders work through challenges that none of them have ever faced before, they’re looking for ways to keep their companies functioning in the short-term while also improving processes to become more innovative, productive and resilient for the long term.

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Typically, these conversations would be had among a small group of senior leaders with “C” or “strategy” in their titles, but this new dynamic has shown that the old ways of doing things won’t work anymore. Increasingly, companies are realizing that in order to thrive they must empower and encourage ingenuity and innovation to emerge from all levels of their organization.

This is where you come in. As a problem-solving, “can-do” employee on the front lines, you’re in a great position to use your knowledge and insights to help your company through these critical times and set it up for long-term success.

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After all, who knows better how to keep a factory running to produce necessary supplies during a time of social distancing than someone who actually spends their days on the floor?

Who can improve the customer experience better than a field rep who has spent years on the front lines helping customers make the best use of your products?

Of course, having ideas is easy. It’s deploying recommendations that creates real impact. So, how do you become one of the people that your boss will rely on to drive the business forward during tough times?

As a problem-solving, “can-do” employee on the front lines, you’re in a great position to use your knowledge and insights to help your company through these critical times and set it up for long-term success.

First, figure out what’s available to you to develop and test your ideas. There are free tools that can help people at all levels of knowledge build apps, business plans or videos. When you can’t just run an idea by your boss at the watercooler, these tools offer new ways to make an impression.

Then, just do it. You’ll probably be surprised at how fast and easy it is to make change happen. I know because I’ve witnessed it firsthand within my organization.

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At Smartsheet, an employee on our People and Culture team developed a dashboard to help us keep track of remote workers during the coronavirus situation.

It worked so well that we used it to create free templates that organizations around the world could use to help build their own coronavirus plans. These templates were downloaded over 10,000 times in 10 days, providing another example of how one individual can make a huge difference in a time of need.

Five years ago, we would have had to email hundreds of employees to find out who wasn’t feeling well, then manually figure out any trends. During a health crisis, when speed matters, that’s not just annoying, it’s potentially dangerous.

I’m constantly encouraged by the resilience of people. When faced with a tough situation at work or at home, most immediately jump into action. Even in the face of a pandemic, I’m hopeful that it will lead people to think about work differently – from managers realizing the importance of empowering their people to individuals realizing the extent of what they can achieve if they think about how their companies can do things better, then take the initiative to put their ideas into action.

Mark Mader is President and Chief Executive Officer of Smartsheet, an enterprise software platform that aligns people and technology so organizations can move faster and drive innovation.

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