Companies and their people have had to switch to a new way of working almost overnight. This has been possible because of technology and the flexibility and resilience of people and their organizations. It also means that there won’t be a return to the way things were before as employees will continue to demand and expect ongoing flexibility from their employers.
The coronavirus crisis has caused the conversation around the future of work to shift in recent months. After remote working skyrocketed throughout 2020, the next stage of the future of work has been accelerated massively.
Rob Collie, Founder & CEO of P3, says, “For decades, there has been a gap between IT and business professionals, driven by deficiencies in the available tools. With platforms characterized by rigidity and long implementation timelines, IT professionals were forced to engineer solutions to make BI initiatives deliver on their promises, and then re-engineer solutions to meet emerging business needs”.
“When compared to the business’ need to respond to rapidly changing conditions, these solutions could never quite deliver. However, with advances in BI software, rapid timelines are now possible. In response, a new breed of hybrid IT and business professionals are emerging in legitimate leadership roles. These leaders collaborate across the organization, with the appreciation of the business’ need for agility and understanding of IT processes, to drive implementation of BI solutions and refocus on the original BI charter – to deliver data insights that inform business decisions”, he adds.
While the acceleration of a remote workforce has already happened, here are a few more workplace trends that may become permanent in 2021 and beyond.
Remote Work and Flexibility
Organizations are increasingly announcing that remote work will be permanent, even when travel restrictions and social distancing will not be. The employees will turn their new-found remote status into an opportunity to work from anywhere, relocate outside of urban centers, make up for lost time with family, and other opportunities. Since businesses spent last year investing in technology that enables virtual collaboration, the transition will be seamless for many employees.
Fred Krieger, Founder & CEO, Scoro, says, “The unexpected events of early 2020 forced businesses into full remote working almost overnight, and many adapted quickly. But even though the road to ‘normality’ looks visible for 2021, employee expectations for flexibility will remain”.
“If we’ve learned anything from this year, it’s that employees do not need to be in an office from 9 am to 5 pm to be productive. With that in mind, businesses have to be prepared for a hybrid working set up – with employees in the office and working remotely at times that better suit them. By preparing for this now, businesses can set themselves up to reap the rewards from hybrid working practices over the long term,” he adds.
Remote work has improved productivity by introducing something employees have been demanding for a long time – flexibility. Though some organizations increased employee monitoring as they worked remotely, a few others have benefited by giving employees the freedom to choose their work hours and focus on outcomes instead of output.
This has completely shifted the belief that employees need to work in an office with long commutes and mandated work hours.
Millions of dollars have been invested in technology solutions that offered improvements to productivity in enterprises. Looking forward, company budgets and priorities will shift to making employees more engaged, as distinct from trying to make them productive.
Engagement is not the same as productivity. Engagement talks about the passion employees have for their jobs and the connection within their teams. In an era of hybrid and remote work, high engagement levels will be a competitive advantage in attracting talent, developing products, and building customer loyalty in a crowded landscape.
Organizations had to lay off thousands of employees, but they also had to create new roles to help business continuity in the new normal. The best way to do that was through rapid reskilling and internal mobility.
The future of work is uncertain, and the accelerated digital transformation needs a whole range of new skills. This year has sent a strong message to both employees and their employers to take their reskilling seriously so that they may be able to adapt to multiple roles in times of crisis. Organizations have already started taking reskilling requirements seriously.
Virtual Onboarding Process
Business leaders are emphasizing the need to modernize the onboarding process to work in a virtual world.
The current strategies and efforts will need to evolve to account for the significant percentage of employees being hired into high-growth organizations and have never met anyone physically.
It will be more critical for organizations to gauge employee productivity, satisfaction, and career progression through improved tools and analytics.
New Hybrid Workforce Challenges
Organizations will gradually start phasing teams back into the office by adopting hybrid strategies that combine in-office work and remote work. While hybrid work necessary to protect employees with health concerns, there are risks associated with integrating work habits of remote and in-office work into company collaboration.
To mitigate these effects, organizations should embrace a culture of asynchronous sharing in place of routine meetings that fill up employee calendars. Organizations need to make sessions interactive so that virtual attendees can participate and craft collaborative practices inclusive to remote workers.