The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world. The global economy is still crawling under the deadweight of lock down`, finding means and methods to break away from the iron clutches of today’s prevailing crisis and uncertainty.
Not long ago, when the COVID-19 outbreak was at its peak, I had wondered what would happen when all of this ends, when people would finally start going to their bustling workplaces and everything would go back to the way it was.
Who would have imagined that the agony of lockdown would shape the evolution of robust digital workspace and the paradigm of work culture will be redefined forever? With the rapid pace of digital transformation unfolding in front of us, the digital workspace is a reality and it will continue to stay even after COVID-19 is defeated. Though It will never replace the physical workspace, but will definitely co-exist, to give us a choice of how we want to thrive in the new normal.
In light of this, business organisations are rapidly evolving and adopting smart technology to keep the ball rolling. Organisations have now enabled and empowered employees to work from their homes. Experts and consultants are working overtime to leverage the big data being continuously generated to comprehend and analyse the impact on productivity together with other key performance indicators to arrive at an optimum hybrid model that would make the business run smoothly and efficiently.
Key business drivers of the hybrid model
According to the Accenture Future of Work Study, 2021 of more than 9,000 workers around the world discovered that most people want a hybrid model, where they sometimes work remotely and sometimes go onsite. 83% of workers say a hybrid model would be optimal. This new model of work has been a boon to several organisations, especially those who were already driven by the vision of a virtual workspace. One of the critical drivers which have enabled business organisations to thrive in this transformed world of work has been the increased use of technology. All day-to-day processes have been translated to the virtual medium which makes it easier for employees working from anywhere in the world to carry out their responsibilities. This also aids in accessing an increased talent pool where geographical boundaries no longer limit the search for finding the best of talent. Added to this, a wider pool of customers can be easily reached by leveraging tech-based solutions.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reduce the operation cost by reducing the number of physical workstations allocated to the project/department. Especially for the IT and services organisations, cost reduction would be another key business driver for the adoption of the hybrid model. Organisations are already figuring out a way to find the ‘Right mix of employees’ in terms of job profile and customer requirements that would be required to be present physically in the office on a given day.
An interesting facet of the Hybrid model is the flexibility it provides to the employees. It provides better work-life integration, creating a much sought after synergy between various aspects of professional and personal lives. Organisations are using this tool for employee retention, especially the women workforce. According to a McKinsey survey, 52% of employees would prefer more flexible working models post-pandemic. The survey also mentions that approximately 30% of employees will switch their jobs if returned to fully on-site work.
During the lockdown, many organisations were caught unprepared and failed to provide business continuity to their customers. Going forward, many organisations see the hybrid model as a risk mitigation strategy, that can be invoked to provide the necessary support to the customer in similar situations of natural disasters and conflicts.
Challenges yet to overcome in the Hybrid workspace
The transformation to a hybrid model is not an easy journey for organisations. It has a multiplicity of challenges that range from the simple issue of system access to complex problems of data security and work culture.
Digital literacy, digital accessibility and the selection of the right digital tool are the key priorities for organisations to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Given how big data is also rising on the scene, ethical uses of the data and security concerns must not be overlooked. Clarity is essential in regards to the data obtained, its users as well as its use.
While on the one hand, there are digital solutions to drive employee engagement and employee wellbeing, we must not forget that technology is only an enabler. Leaders have to continuously devise and revise strategies to build relationships with the employees. In the absence of physical space, the organisational culture and its values must still be incorporated into the work lives of employees and each company will have to develop their own unique initiatives and strategies.
With increased access to talent, employees will often come from remote locations and diverse cultural backgrounds and creating a sense of belonging to the organisations for the new hires remains a significant challenge for the enterprises of all sizes in the post-pandemic world.
It has been observed that for many employees, the line between personal and professional life got merged during work from home period, leading to burned out and serious mental health issues. This is also substantiated by the McKinsey survey report, which says that ‘the lack of clear communication about the future of post-pandemic work has contributed to employee burnout. Nearly half of employees surveyed say they’re feeling some symptoms of being burned out at work.’
Finally, the well-being agenda takes new dimensions in a hybrid workspace and it can no longer be designed as a one size fits all approach. In light of the increased mental stress caused by the pandemic and rapid, unprecedented transformation in the world of work, catering to the diverse wellbeing needs of the workforce is a critical yet difficult task.
This calamity has created an ideal opportunity for the business organisations to revisit their existing policies and redesign their strategy vis-à-vis remote employee locations and increased use of HR technology. At Stepping Cloud, we engaged with the employees at various levels through communication and corporate events to keep them motivated. We also adopted the Hybrid model as a future strategy to reduce the administrative cost significantly. The training, enablement and the cultural integration of the new employees in the organisation through remote processes created unimagined challenges before we finally created the tailored ‘Buddy and Mentor’ framework aided by the digital technology to measure and monitor the progress of the new employees along the learning curve.
Continuous innovation is key. Every strategy devised needs to be continuously tailored to meet the unique yet changing business needs and priorities of the organisations.