When it comes to workplaces, one size doesn’t fit all.
There are different views on remote working. While it has been welcomed by a wide range of companies, certain others regard it as a temporary “glitch” that will be corrected after the pandemic. The former group is likely to continue flexible working schemes, either hybrid or totally remote, and the latter will be “back to the office” when the pandemic is over. Certainly, there are pros and cons associated with both approaches and different views on each.
Certain issues come up frequently in our discussions with executives across companies about the evolution of working schemes. All need to be addressed by putting people first.
- Be considerate about mental fatigue: A clear start and finish of the working day helps people manage the cognitive load. Online meeting platforms have made it easier to schedule meetings and increased connectivity. However, the proper use of online platforms and connectivity are yet to be established. Back-to-back meetings – just because it’s easy to set them- and connecting for work after regular workhours – just because it can be done- are common. This places a mental pressure for a wide range of employees; many of them express a need for more time to rest and disconnect. People express the need for some “lone time” and neither working from home nor working at the office provides that well enough, yet.
- Keep flexibility and utilize the best of both worlds: The majority does not want to lose the flexibility of not having to go to the office every day. Yet, they also express the need for in-person interactions from time to time. What many employees consider as the key point is the reason or the benefit of getting to the office. Many employees think it’s meaningless to go to the office to make online meetings. They’d rather come to the office for activities such as brainstorming, objective-setting, onboarding people and coaching.
- Pay attention to fairness: There seems to be a concern about being “isolated” in hybrid or remote working schemes. People who return to the office are more likely to have casual chats or in-person meetings with colleagues and senior executives. This is likely to make the ones working from home feel excluded, feeding into concerns about being treated unfairly in terms of recognition, promotion, benefits etc.
Changing the mindset, developing the skills, and enhancing the tools are essential.
COVID 19 forced enterprises to rethink their approach to the structures, skillsets, and tools required in the organisation. Our discussions with executives indicate certain requisites for success. Again, a people-first perspective is required to address the issues.
- Connect better than ever: The new way of working will require speedier access to knowledge and faster decision-making. That makes “connectivity” as a main pillar of the. The implication is; rather than having multiple tiers of bosses and hierarchical processes, a meshed network of teams and fast decision-making are likely to prevail. Moreover, developing a network of external partners – and treating them as an extended family- will be critical. Utilising the knowledge and know-how of the ecosystem is likely to foster growth.
- Mid the skills gap more than ever: Increasing digitalisation and automation will require new skill sets. Moreover, in a more connected work environment, developing knowledge on other people’s domain will be critical. This poses a challenge to companies to have a good understanding of how digital transformation is going to impact the skills. A tendency to move from education-based hiring to experience-based hiring is likely to spread. On top of that, upskilling – developing new skills in the current role- and reskilling – developing new capabilities to take new roles- will be continuous in a vibrant and learning organisation. This approach will make sure the company’s operations run seamlessly. It also shows that employees are valued and motivates them by developing new skills.
- Adapt quicker than ever: Agility and productivity of operations will continue to be vital for success. This poses a challenge to redesign systems and processes to enhance resilience and adaptability. Incorporating modular applications, deploying cloud-based services, and establishing an enterprise-wide data governance are likely to be pervasive.
COVID 19 has forced organisations to work in new ways. Many were surprisingly quick to respond to the changes. They have tested new ways, learned on the go, and survived the crisis. Now that they have survived, it is time to prosper and become “future-proof.” That requires a human-centric approach, putting people’s needs, preferences and capabilities at the core. With a human-centric mindset, companies should keep experimenting, learning, and iterating to address the new challenges and establish the optimal work in the future.