What is the future of work in a continuing Pandemic Era?...

As businesses reflect on the impact of a Global lockdown in March, we are already beginning to see longer lasting ‘resets’ on the workforce, from Talent Management to Employee Value Propositions, from Resource Planning to Performance Management. According to the Office of National Statistics, in April of this year 46.6% of people who were employed carried out some work from home. 86% of these people did so as a result of COVID19. A recent McKinsey report shared that 80% of survey respondents stated that they had enjoyed working from home. These are stats that are hard to ignore and are quite incredible on the backdrop of traditional convention that we were all so acquainted with in the earlier parts of this year.
All around the world leaders are suddenly having to reimagine the role the office plays in business strategy and consider how work is done in entirely new and creative ways. Pre-Covid, most C-Suite teams considered prime office space to be a considerable asset in talent attraction, credibility with customers and overall company culture. Leaders that spoke of outcome based flexible working policies were often the minority and as often shot down by peers with a chorus of concerns on the impact to productivity if staff were not all in the one place, together 9-5, 5 days a week.
The pivoting to working from home globally, has been one of the largest scale experiments with a Global workforce we have ever seen and while many employees speak of the positives they have experienced from it – reduced commuting time, more time with family, more flexible hours, the downsides also have to be considered when evaluating what your future of work could look like – more distractions and disruptions, and the lack of physical interaction with colleagues has been reported to lead to anxiety, grief and even depression. Whilst the technology that businesses have harnessed to support remote working has been around for years, the rapid scale of the adoption of it over the last few months has produced unthinkably successful results, but it is important not to forget the human at the centre of the tech. We are inherently social beings, and some of the most creative opportunities can come from collaboration and impromptu water cooler chats in the workplace. While productivity is invariably up due to the focus that working from home can give employees, (A study found that 48% of remote workers exhibit more discretionary effort compared with 35% of non-remote workers) some of these softer and often immeasurable moments could be lost if they are not protected in your Future of Work Strategy.
So what does recovery & the future look like?
As always, when faced with such an enormous change catalyst, the role of leadership has never been more important. Digital adoption and transformation of this scale, requires forward thinking and modern leaders to figure out quickly how to embrace the opportunity this experiment has given us. Can your bricks and mortar evolve into an innovation or creative hub for dynamic workshopping or customer journey mapping? Does your strategy no longer require a physical office space, releasing capital for investment into new products or services that couldn’t have been considered before? Are you ready as a leader to embrace psychological safety for your teams, to allow them to be truly empowered and self organising meaning less of a reliance upon physical meetings and interventions? Are you future proofing your technical stack and employee tools using the valuable learnings the last 7 months have presented you with?
These are the real questions that will answer what the Future of Work will look like for your business. We have been given a once in a generation voyeuristic view into human adaption and how to use technology to the heavy lifting for us – what happens next will be the really interesting bit..