The COVID-19 pandemic took our common idea of working – where we were always in the office or on the jobsite – and flipped it. Most of the world has been working from home, where possible, since the start of the pandemic. That showed us we were able to be productive even though we were not in the office. But more importantly, we learned that the future of work is not so much about place – “onsite vs. remote”, and asking where people should work in the future might be the wrong question.
A better question is: What unleashes a person's potential, enabling them to be healthy and productive, regardless of where they work? I highlight two critical areas for a resilient and productive workforce below.
Lead with compassion
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a constant stream of change, from different teammates to system shifts, adding onto the stressors of employees – a recent Gartner survey has revealed that 54% of HR leaders believe that employees are suffering from change fatigue.
To minimise this, leaders must look to increase workforce health and resilience by taking more responsibility forworkers’ holistic well-being and actively seeking to earn their trust. This will require a significant shift to invest and rebuild the culture to one of anti-burnout, rather than quick fixes such as a bonus day off or a wellness app.
Organisations must look to provide employees with the resources to be productive anywhere.This means paying attention to day-to-day changes, and empowering teams to shape their own change experiences. They have to redefine work policies and strengthen worker-employer relationships with strategies that ensure workers are net better off.
For organisations, this can be done by reframing the way hybrid success is measured – from maximum productivity, to a focus on employee wellbeing and belonging. This can mean delivering the same exceptional results but on a more reasonable timeline, or setting boundaries and actively enforcing them so that people can find and maintain a healthy line between their professional and private lives.
Through abandoning presenteeism and aiming instead for high quality outcomes that can be maintained long term, organisations will be able to attract and retain the best talent out there and increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and value.
As we transition into the new way of work, employee well-being will be a business priority, and not just a priority for the HR department.
Design work around people
Too often we design work around spaces and tasks involved, rather than the people that do them; policies and leadership support have largely catered to onsite workers, and as the modern workplace evolves to one that is likely to have a large number of contingent workers alongside full-timers, it is now critical to design work around people.
To deliver on this, IT and business leaders have to work together to design and deploy cost efficient, highly responsive and secure evergreen workplace platforms to help people to work in new ways such as augmentinghuman intelligence with technology.
However, there is no one-size-fit-all model, and business groups within organisations cannot work in silos. It is not a case of the IT department deploying tools and then looking for a problem, it is a case of technology creating a culture that helps employees reach the goals the business requires, anytime, anywhere. There must be close collaboration and communication across business functions to create workplace experiences that engage and motivate employees.
In addition, organisations must respond to the needs of their employees, both in terms of their roles, as well as their personal situations. Different roles require different approaches to restructuring. For example, workers in the retail industry may require more face time. Thus, designing work around them can involve giving employees the tools to take the point of sale to the customer, wherever they are in the store, increasing customers' propensity to buy and making it easier to complete the purchase. In tandem, taking into account personal situations of employees can mean allowing employees who do not have the infrastructure to work at home to return to the office on a more permanent basis.
People are generally comfortable with technology in their personal lives and want more from their workplace orsomething that matches it. They dont want to feel like they are told what they can and can't do. By empowering the employees with technology, it should allow innovation to develop, rather than be stifled.
Build digital fluency
While business leaders have made the move to digital, they need to also sharpen their digital edge by promotingdigital skills and adoption in the workforce. With the workforce likely to become more dispersed, the importance of digital fluency is only going to increase as not only work itself but employee development and team building will take place virtually.
Digital fluency should be thought of in a manner similar to how people use languages. If being literate meansunderstanding the basic tools of speech, being fluent means being able to create something new with these tools. In this way, digital fluency allows people to build on technological foundations and not just work alongside them, but also to unleash newfound creativity and ways of working.
To be successful, workers need to have access to digital tools and training – but also leadership and cultural support – to unlock their full potential and ingenuity. Organisations need to have a strong digital vision that is clearly communicated and endorsed through employee training and upskilling opportunities; they need to encourage the use of digital tools to drive employee innovation, collaboration and mobility.
This can be done through infusing digital technologies, such as cloud, into daily operations to enhance performance. These technologies enable people to work more efficiently, make informed and fast decisions and be more responsive to changing business needs.
Future of work
The future is exciting – but it’s not about getting back to the office, it’s about getting back to the basics of supporting people. Key to this is ensuring a vibrant corporate culture, and empowering employees to stay productive anywhere by enhancing flexible working arrangements, upgrading the access to company resources, and uplifting workplace digital capabilities. Only then can the future of work look brighter than ever.