The recently published IBM Institute for Business Value study ‘Covid-19 and the Future of Business’ that has received responses from over 3,800 C-suite executives across 22 industries and 20 countries, has found that in the present unsettling circumstances brought on by COVID-19 and the accompanying heightened levels of personal stress and anxiety, it is critical to place a renewed focus on people.
Prioritizing establishing remote working within two years
As per findings of the report, following the global activities so far, and striving to ensure good health, productivity and motivation for employees, over two thirds of executives plan to prioritize establishing remote working as an option for employees in the next two years. However, from the lens of preparation, employers are in a position to enable only about a quarter of their employees to work remotely in two year’s time, although that is nearly twice as many as two years ago.
Industries including IT services, banking, insurance, financial markets, and education have the highest percentages of workforce expected to be working remotely in two years, the study showed.
Shift in employee expectations
The study showed that the shift in the post pandemic workplace is not only in the way of working but also employee expectations. Employees today expect their organizations to support their physical health, emotional health and skilling needs more actively.
Interestingly, while 74% of Indian executives stated that they are helping employees equip skills in a new way, only 38% of employees surveyed agreed. Additionally, while 85% of Indian executives said that they are supporting the physical and emotional health of their workforce, only 46% of employees surveyed felt that support.
Numbers show that two years ago only 3% of Indian employers provided employees access to mental health resources, in two years time the percentage is expected to grow with 41% of employers planning to provide said access.
Accelerated transformation and automation
Nearly six in ten organizations have accelerated their digital transformation owing to the pandemic, the study stated. Over the next two years, 55% of Indian executives plan to prioritize their digital transformation efforts. In this direction, 66% of executives stated that they have been able to successfully close initiatives that earlier encountered resistance.
Perceived barriers to digital transformation like technology immaturity and employee opposition appear to be fading away. The hurdles for employers today as well as that in the immediate two years, revolve around inadequate skills, employee burnout and organizational complexity.
“In the last few months, we have witnessed year-long digital transformation and adaption compressed into weeks. Companies in every industry have been encouraged to initiate digitisation measures, propelled by the infusion of automation and AI, and look forward to building cognitive enterprises of the future,” commented Kamal Singhani, Country Managing Partner, Global Business Services, IBM India/South Asia.
Executives are now planning to focus on internal and operational capabilities, by prioritizing workforce skills and flexibility, among other aspects, to jumpstart progress in the next two years.
In parallel to an increase in application of automation across all business functions in the next two years, R&D (3.1x), supply chain (2.3x), procurement (2x) and risk (2x) are expected to experience big jumps. In the same duration, AI prioritization will witness a 25 percentage jump from 34% to 59%.
The bigger picture
As per the study, in addition to the focus areas under the two year plan, emerging leaders are proactively working on three broader segments to survive and thrive through the pandemic:
- Improving operational scalability and flexibility
- Applying AI, automation and other exponential technologies to make workflows more intelligent
- Leading, engaging and enabling the workforce in new ways
When the global workforce shifted to remote working overnight, the expected timeline for it to stay was rather short-term. Over time it has become clear that for the safety of employees at large, remote work is here to stay for time unknown, and employers have now begun to see not just the need but also the benefits of remote working. With preconceived notions about the correlation between productivity and working from home steadily breaking down, there is a rising concern around the long-term impact of a make-shift remote working concept on wellness.
To be able to move forward sustainably and productively, organizations now need to rethink work in the long-term, explore the idea and plan for a hybrid workplace, equip the workforce with needed technological support, and keep people at the centre of it all as they strive to make a shift from sustenance to recovery.