In a world which is gradually adjusting after the COVID-19 lockdown, one of the only certainties that we can have is that this will have a lasting impact on how people work from now onwards.
Employees will have to adjust to new workplace realities, and companies will have to keep up with the rapid changes that are occurring in order to maximize the potential of their employees.
According to experts, this might include a mix of short-term remedies targeted at raising worker confidence and limiting the number of employees in the office at any given moment, as well as longer-term design upgrades and alterations that prioritize security and cleanliness in workplace planning.
48% of business leaders say their top concerns over returning to business as usual are health and safety.
26% of business leaders think their organization’s “new normal” will mean more employees working from home.
25% of business leaders say the biggest challenge to working remotely is productivity and motivation. That was followed by 24% who said connectivity with coworkers and 19% home-office setups.
48% of business leaders think technology spending at their company will increase because of the pandemic.
It’s said that the worst of times brings out the best in people; as it happens, this is true of organizations as well. All over the world, companies are being challenged by the COVID-19 crisis to find new ways to serve their customers and communities. Many are rising to the occasion.
Now is the time, as one reimagine the postpandemic organization, to pay careful attention to the effect of the choices on organizational norms and culture.
Focus on the ties that bind people together. Pay heed to core aspects of your own leadership and that of your broader group of leaders and managers. Take the opportunity to fashion the hybrid virtual model that best fits your company, enabling a new shared culture for all your employees that provides stability, social cohesion, identity, and belonging, whether your employees are working remotely, on premises, or in some combination of both.
Being a leader in a hybrid model where some of your workers are working from home and others on the company can be quite challenging because what works for one side, may not work for the other. Remote workers sometimes feel left out, and it becomes more difficult to feel the connection to the company’s values and goals. To make sure this doesn’t happen, leaders will need to “show up” differently as they are interacting with some employees face-to-face and others virtually.
Leaders of hybrid teams need to have clear guidelines in place to avoid miscommunication and employee exhaustion amongst the team. It’s important the set them early, so employees know what is expected of them and the processes to follow if those expectations cannot be met. It is also important to regularly revisit and update these goals if needed.
Be more inspirational
On remote teams the hierarchal leadership isn’t the best choice because you don’t have that face-to-face feedback. The dispersed employees working remotely, need a new leadership behavior to compensate to the lack of emotion that are typical of digital channels.
Make communication and feedback a core part of your leadership style.
Be sure to ask employee questions at your weekly check-ins and more importantly, be open to feedback. Encourage both vertical and horizontal conversations as well as off-topic conversations amongst employees.
Track your informal networks
One of the disadvantages of the hybrid virtual model is that it reduces face-to-face interaction and the serendipitous encounters that occur between co-workers, that sometimes lead to amazing outcomes. So, it’s important to leaders to map and monitor the informal networks in their organization with semimanual refreshes of social-network maps, in order to track your informal networks. This way, you can create connections between groups that do not naturally interact or that now interact less frequently as a result of the hybrid virtual model.
In the end, it’s crucial to adopt new norms and change the way we work if we are to maintain and improve productivity, collaboration, and innovation.
Education is key to competitive edge
As we approach a full year in this new work environment, some employees may feel that they have a good grasp on their current role and see the opportunities for growth on the horizon. This is an ideal time to focus your team on building skillsets that will assist in the long run. The remote environment has certainly uncovered new challenges. The desire for additional or expanded skillsets may now be a necessity. Encourage your team members to take advantage of online learning platforms and allow them the time to invest in their future.
- IT training: It’s no surprise that this skillset will continue to be useful throughout this year. No matter your employees’ current experience level, focusing on IT and technology security will bring advantages.
- Video and audio production: Advertising has taken on new meaning in this remote world. The way companies are reaching consumers is evolving through podcasts, Instagram, and TikTok. Developing video and audio production skills within your team can dramatically expand reach.
- Foreign language and translation: With an increasingly-globalized economy, staff may need additional language fluency and translation skills.
- Data analysis and statistics: Data analytics have becoming a top priority in this digital world. Many colleges and universities are offering free courses in these areas.
- Individual creativity! Creativity is consistently an in-demand skill as employees often need to think outside the box to solve new problems and challenges. Encourage them to participate in activities that spark their imagination and spend time sharpening their creative skills.
Rethinking the workplace
With the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on the rise, a question looms in the minds of many business leaders and employees: To what extent will remote work persist? Most organizations will retain a degree of remote work through a hybrid workforce.
As we look further into the pandemic recovery phase, it is time to reevaluate and recommit to work-from-home policies. Consider these key tips for maintaining remote work:
- Utilize the proper technology.
- Ensure a secure internet connection.
- Implement communication programs across the organization.
- Set clear expectations in the work from home policy.
- Test the “work from home” program and make adjustments when needed.
- Trust your employees.
While some employees will stay fully remote, others will begin to re-enter physical offices and facilities. There are a few things to keep in mind as workplace expectations have changed to ensure safety and cleanliness.
- Health and wellbeing: The workplace must include a sense of health and wellbeing. Do employees feel safe at work while their loved ones may still be social distancing at home? What programs are in place in case stay-at-home orders are enforced again and employees must juggle two workspaces?
- Sharing the workspace: Cleanliness will continue to be a high-priority factor. What are you doing to safeguard the workplace and how can you help your employees maintain a germ-free zone? Privacy may also come into play here. At home, your team members may have had the privacy and focus to knock out key tasks in their day. Can they expect the same when they come back into the office?
- Outdoor and open-air workplaces: Is there an option at your office for employees to spread out in small meetings? Open-air spaces allow employees to interact with each other and clients outside the confines of a conference room.
- On-site eateries: With the return to office life comes the return of the lunch hour. This creates the opportunity for companies to offer innovative options for their employees. Open-air food trucks, pre-packed lunch deliveries, and alternative kitchen spaces can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help your employees feel safe.
Digitization and automation
Along with people and workplaces, overall organizational processes are experiencing a massive overhaul that will inform the future of business. With the onset of COVID-19, organizations did in a matter of weeks what they would otherwise have done over the course of the coming years: They majorly digitized internal processes. The upside of this unprecedented event was the rapid mobilization of remote work, but the question lingers – how and what should an organization digitize to stay competitive in the long run? In order to support a working world that is going to become more and more “hybrid,” organizations should consider identifying those internal processes that are:
- Paper-based processes: Does a process rely on paper documentation that is scanned and uploaded to close out the loop on the deliverables? If so, automating this system, whether it requires client-facing inputs or employee execution, may streamline an often bogged-down process.
- Manual processes: If an employee must move data or documentation from one location to another (virtual or otherwise), it is important that organizations start working out how to automate this process and remove as many manual tasks as possible from the workflow. This has the upside of reducing human error and increasing accuracy and efficiency.
- Processes requiring a meeting: Does your organization require meetings to sign off on work or come to a decision? Team-based software platforms continue to advance and offer a real alternative to in-person meetings with documentation repositories and tools for editing and updating work. These software options also offer ways to manage, track, and prioritize work as it moves through the organization.