The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionised the way we work, where we work, and the skills we need to work. The future of work was already being shaped by emerging technologies like automation, robotics, intranet, and artificial intelligence. But with the advent of the social distancing era, the future of work has been further transformed.
As COVID-19 grew to become a worldwide pandemic without any vaccine in sight, businesses around the world went into shutdown mode. Business continuity was backlogged whilst personal safety as well as the safety of those around us gained prominence.
Now as the world gets back on its feet again, we are realising how many changes this pandemic has brought forth to the future of work. The working population is facing a whole new set of challenges as we are getting back to work.
Companies are deploying work-from-home solutions for business continuity. Business goals are being tweaked to support this shifting paradigm and accelerate post covid-19 recovery, without compromising business quality or employee productivity.
Jobs are being lost. And jobs are being gained. It's a chaotic work life. Employees are being thrust into a whole new world of remote working, where they must collaborate with their team members digitally, and essentially be subjected to radically different employee experiences.
So how do you cope up with this new workplace and working style? In this article, we share 4 important changes for the future of work in the post COVID-19 workplace.
Working From Home and Flexible Hours
The world health crisis pushed businesses to roll out remote working solutions to their respective workforces. Employees were forced to work from home, which was a completely new workplace experience for most. We found out that this new work environment prompts exhaustion and burnout sometimes more quickly than working in a physical office surrounded by your peers.
Now that we find ourselves going back to the office, many of us wish for a more hybrid working week, whether that means working from home/remotely or having more flexible hours to fit chores and errands around our working hours. Employers should consider that the pandemic accelerated a trend that has been arising for a while. Employees will now expect flexible hours and work-from-home policies as part of their mental and physical health. But how can this be achieved?
To build a resilient workforce that can adapt in the face of constant change, managers need to set expectations for when team members are required to be present online for meetings, conferences, and other events. Relaxing rules where workers don't necessarily have to start and end their working hours at a set time can be particularly beneficial for workers to create work-life balance.
Many of us suffer from massive guilt that we are not able to dedicate more time to our personal lives, especially family time, while working from home. This guilt climbs exponentially when we tend to reply to emails and messages at "odd" times of the day (or night). Having that assurance of flexible hours can enable us to live and perform at our best!
Managers can work cohesively with employees to foster and strengthen their relationships and understand each other better. This can increase productivity levels all around and build a sustainable post COVID-19 future.
Trust Between Employers and Employees
It's now critical to understand that the new normal can be beneficial to any organisation only when there is trust and respect among your managers and workers.
Gone are the days when you could call your workers to your office to give you status updates on your work by the hour. Also gone are the days you could keep tabs on their activity, either through CCTV vigilance or via sophisticated nanny cams.
Businesses have been forced to operate remotely, which is now being viewed as a long-term business continuity option. To make this work, managers and employers need to forge better relationships and enforce more transparency into their roles on how they are contributing to the overall growth and wellness of the company.
Managers can let their employees prove their productivity with deliverables and reports, rather than the numbers of hours spent in front of your workstation or phone. And employees can use the power of virtual collaborative platforms to drive their teams towards more success in achieving business goals.
Introducing flexible hours, or relaxing the rules while working from home, as mentioned above can help a lot in bolstering these relationships. Identifying, focusing and up-skilling your employees' key strengths builds those relationships even further.
Now is the time to invest in your employees. There's no better way to demonstrate your respect and trust for your employees other than helping them embrace the redefined future of work practices and skills. Encourage and offer new opportunities for your employees to skill up based on their individual potential. Skill them up and let them add value to your business.
Another way to forge stronger bonds between employers and employees, thereby building trust and respect, is by being sensible with executive compensation and board-level promotions in critical times such as the current one. When many are still furloughed or on reduced hours, your employees may feel highly discouraged to give their all when their jobs are at risk whilst others seem to be at ease. By cutting expenses down from the top-to-bottom, your company will show leadership and real care to everyone, not just shareholders. With such financial stability, your workforce can focus better on their roles and jobs, rather than waiting for P45s to be handed out any day.
All companies are in the middle of a major transition right now. We have already discussed the importance of re-evaluating and updating how to use technology, people, and processes to get business done. Integrating cultural, organisational, and operational changes to meet the challenges posed by crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is the digital transformation we are talking about here. This includes:
Cloud computing: one major example of digital transformation. Data and applications are stored on the cloud, and you can enable your workforce to access the company data and applications securely from anywhere or anytime they want, and irrespective of whichever device they are using.
Virtual collaboration tools: working from home means you are relying completely on digital tools and services to collaborate with others and deliver value to your customers.
Cybersecurity and VPN: abrupt digital transformations may compromise the security of your enterprise, so a robust security program needs to be a part of the process. You must build a secure network that protects your data and applications, as well protect your workforce who are working from home, from numerous cyber threats.
COVID-19 has changed life as we know it. This is the time to enforce practices and policies to protect your workforce and support your people in real time. Make sure you show your company cares.
You can work with your workers to cultivate and maximise their capabilities. Give them a sense of connection to the organisation by being transparent on how they are contributing in delivering value to your customers. Focus on safeguarding their mental and physical health with new practices and activities.
Doubts about physical, mental, and financial security can cripple any person's productivity level. Promote open dialogue between your managers and workers to reduce exhaustion and burnout rates among your employees.
Re-evaluate your milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) according to the current post COVID-19 work environment and set milestones that are more realistic and achievable to this new climate. Make sure to communicate them.
Consistently rewarding your employees will keep up their morale, and you can expect them to work at their best. Rewards and benefits need to be aligned with the needs of the employees, business, and society. Digital Perks gives you several different ways to reward and recognise your employees. From gift cards and cinema tickets to peer-to-peer recognition, create a way to show your team is appreciated. Learn more about it here.
Embrace the changes and adapt to the new practices, habits, and policies in the post COVID19 workplace. Keep in mind:
Promoting flexibility to get business done can be that simple step to get started. With flexible hours and relaxed rules, your workforce can build the work-life balance they strive for and lead more fulfilling lives.
Cultivate better relationships between your people, enabling everyone to work at their personal best. Trust and respect among your people can boost their individual productivity levels, while improving their overall well-being - mental and physical.
Adopting digital transformation is essential for business continuity during these trying times. But don't compromise on security. A strong security program across your IT infrastructure will protect data, humans, and machines within your organization.
And finally, consistently rewarding your employees makes you more emphatic to your people. The financial hardships induced by the pandemic is too acute. Employers need to rely on open dialogue and clear communication policies to make it clear that they support their employees in these hard times.
There's no going back, so focus on the opportunities rather than the challenges moving forward.