The novel Coronavirus has fundamentally changed every aspect of business — from how work was done to how we interacted with our colleagues. While remote work is becoming the new normal, research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals that 71% of employers are struggling to bring in remote work while 65% are struggling to keep the employee morale high. On the other hand, employees who were so used to the daily commute to work or brainstorm with colleagues over a cup of tea or de-stress themselves over watercooler chitchats are suddenly forced to stay in and work from home. The fine line of balance between work and home have become blurred with long and stretched work hours, attending Zoom call meetings with family members peeking from behind, and so on. Despite all the odds and no matter how grim this picture looks like it also presents an opportunity to reshape and reinvent the workplace, and there’s a lot to look forward to in it. This article will emphasize what employees can expect from future work trends and evolution in the workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced even the more reluctant of companies to adopt a work-from-home methodology.
How Will COVID-19 Change The Future Of Work?
Increase in WFH and remote workplaces
COVID-19 has brought in a significant drift in the workplace scenario. Employees continue to work from home as they are cooped up in homes maintaining social distancing. It can be said that the coming days will see more employees embracing the work from home model. A Gartner analysis reveals that 48 % of employees will be working remotely at least for some time compared to 30% pre-pandemic time. The survey further mentions that 74% of CFOs are going to increase remote workin post-COVID times. On the other hand, employees can expect to see more work from home opportunities in their future work or current workplaces, especially when their office leases are up. Some businesses may want to have centralized workspaces where employees can come occasionally as and when needed. The April 2020 survey by Gartner found that 74% of leaders will move atleast 5% of their workforces to a remote working model for good post-COVID-19.
Change in remote work policies
This comes as a no brainer. Since organizations are adopting remote work, this is the next change that employees are expected to see. With almost 74% of companies planning to switch to remote work post-COVID-19 permanently, the remote working policies are going to be restructured to make it more flexible and relevant. While companies like Twitter have already amended their remote work policies, many others are following suit.
Visible changes in workspaces
Many companies may also remodel their floor-plans to keep the employees physically apart while working in office space. Employees who plan to go back to work can expect to see virtual workplaces and collocated office buildings. Closed cubicles will not be there anymore. Additionally, employees may also see daily temperature checks, visiting an office campus may need permissions and security check-ins. Employees will also need to wear strict workwear. For example, General Motors recently announced that employees returning to work in certain plants must wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Many essential businesses are making it compulsory for employees to wear PPE, gloves, face shields, and facemasks at work places.
Increased access to employee health record
In the coming days, employees can also expect to see that their employer will have greater access to their health records. Employers are expected to do passive tracking of employees as employees start working remotely. In addition to tracking virtual clock in and clock out, computer usage, communications,emails, and chats, employers will also have greater access to employees’ health data. For example, employees may have to share details like if they have COVID 19 antibodies or if their immediate contacts have contracted the virus. However, employers need to be more sensitive to these data usage and positively use them to boost employee engagement across the dispersed workforce.
Expect more support from organizations
The pandemic has changed our perception and has taught us to be more empathetic towards each other. Throughout the pandemic, employees and employers have built more connected relationships. Going forward, employers will be paying more attention to how to build a resilient team culture. Managers will be more empathetic towards their team members to help them engage and boost morale,especially in remote work or hybrid work model scenarios. Inclusivity and cross border collaboration will also be on the rise. To keep up with the employee experience, HR will play a pivotal role in working with managers and employees to be more supportive and meet expectations associated with these fundamental work-life shifts.
Job Loss and rise in contingent employees
One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 has been businesses shutting down, especially in the hospitality and tourism industries. As businesses shrink their operations, job loss might be on the rise. On the other hand, employers would be on the lookout for greater workforce management flexibility. As a result,contingent and gig workers would be in demand. Interestingly, contingent workers can expect to receive the same benefits as their full-time peers.
Gaining Popularity in a hybrid model
Will there be no going back to the office? Will employees be completely working from remote locations? These are some of the questions that most people are concerned about regarding the change in the workplace in the post-pandemic world. The pandemic has forced even the most reluctant organizations to embrace remote working or a combination of in-office, remote, and semi-remote working model. Such hybrid work models are gaining prominence, and we can assume that many organizations will adopt this work model in the coming days.
Hybrid work models empower employees to have some autonomy in the way they work. For example, they can choose when to work, where to work, and how to work to do their best to maintain a balance between work life and personal life. It is also interesting to note that while 48% of employees would prefer to work in an all-remote model even after COVID, 52% of employees want to go back to the workplace, which is why the hybrid model will work.
Hierarchies are going to flatten
Working in silos and hierarchies have been busted by working from home. It has made all of us more efficient. This has a positive effect. Employees can expect to see amore flattened organization structure and a rise in more project-based work. The cross-functional collaboration will also be on the rise because decisions are made faster when people are involved from different functions.
Improved communication at workplaces
As remote working becomes the new normal, employees can expect to see more proactive and transparent communications from leaders. As teleworking gains momentum, mutual trust will work as the foundation between employees and employers, which means leaders will need to communicate regularly and intentionally, keeping their employees informed at all times about the business strategies and organizational goals.
For an organisation to survive in this harsh climate, it has to be willing to adapt to the circumstances and be flexible.
Getmore upskilling opportunities
As organizations keep finding new ways to keep their remote employees’ morale high, they continue to work towards building a pandemic proof company rather than a recession-proof company. Employees can expect to receive more upskilling opportunities in the workplace. For example, during the Ebola outbreak in WestAfrica, a company operating there, ensured that its truck drivers learned to operate excavators. Similarly, as telehealth becomes more popular, doctors need to get acquainted with digital tools. Employees, too, need to re-skill and upskill themselves.
More flexibility at work
One of the positives of COVID-19 is more flexibility at work. Ever since employees are working from remote, employees work on a more flexible schedule. Without a physical office space, the strict 9-5 protocol is slowly fading away. Employers had been more lenient on allowing flexible work hours for their people. In the coming days, flexible work hours will be a new normal, which enables employees to balance work and personal life better and help reduce stress and increase productivity. An interesting study report by Flex + Strategy Group reveals that a whopping 60% of employees with flexible work routines feel they are more productive. The Future work trend will see more flexibility at work.
Employees will bring their whole selves to work.
While there has always been a strong debate, whether it is professional to bring your whole self to work or not, with the pandemic happening and work from home becoming the new normal, employees will see a trend in bringing their wholeselves to work. Deloitte study found that 61% ofemployees hide their true selves because they fear discrimination when they get their whole selves to work. However, COVID-19 has given us no place to keep away a part of ourselves that we have hidden carefully for so long. This new form of working has merged the employee side and the parent site of the person. From CEOs to weather forecasters to newsreaders, no one has been left to reveal their different layers. And it’s okay. The coming days will expect employees to bring their whole selves to work and when your child peeps in-between a team call, just expect your colleagues to share a good laugh and nothing more to it.
Employee engagement will have a new meaning.
During the pandemic, and even after the pandemic, we can expect to see a lot more concern of the employer regarding productivity, resilience, and employees’ well-being. From supporting employees to shift to home office mode to keeping track of health and well-being to helping employees get back to the office and smoothly, employee engagement will have a new meaning in the post pandemic world. While workplace safety will remain the primary focus, employers will also work to keep up the remote employees’ morale high up.
What can employers do?
One of the most significant silver linings of this crisis are employers willing to relook at how things were done and devising strategies to get things done fast. To do so, companies need to foster relationships like never before. As their employees continue to work from home, employers need to trust their people and lead by example. Teams need to come together to listen to their people, understand their concerns, treat them with more empathy, assess their mental health and general well-being. For organizations where employees will come back to the office, employee well-being and workplace safety would be top concerns for organizations.
We are yet quite far from post-COVID, but we are sure the day is not too far. But when it does, there will be an opportunity to reshape the work culture. Both employers and employees will need to work hand in hand to build a resilient work culture, and we should be back in the business with a bang!