Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Watch part 1 of our discussion about the future of work with Katherine Sharp from Enliven and host Ahmed Rammay from Marketing by Rammay. In this video, we discuss the dramatic changes that businesses face and how they can navigate the post-covid world. Below are our 3 top things to keep in mind for leaders embracing change.
3 Future of Work Practices Every Leader Should Embrace
Understand and define your hybrid work model
Learn to communicate frequently and transparently
Invest in technology and cybersecurity measures
Read the full article below to learn more about the three practices.
New technology, demographic shifts and the impact of COVID-19 have radically transformed the way organizations operate and the type of skills their people need to help them thrive in the future of work. The pandemic has accelerated change in a way we could not have imagined even at the end of last year.
We had to rapidly transition knowledge workers (or those whose job involves handling or using information) to remote work for starters. Although businesses are struggling to understand which of the pandemic's effects will be temporary versus permanent, one change that's all but certain to last is that knowledge workers will be spending more of their time working from home. The pandemic has broken through cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work at this scale in the past—setting in motion a massive shift in where work takes place for some people. Businesses that never offered this flexibility before are now embracing it. They're starting to think about the longer term, especially with the vaccine around the corner.
It's important to acknowledge that not all types of workers can work from home because of their work's physical nature. Workers deemed “essential” have adapted the way they work and interact with their customers or suppliers. For those that work in manufacturing, as an example, it's not possible to work without the specialized machinery or equipment they have access to on the factory floor.
A McKinsey survey of 800 corporate executives around the world found that across all sectors, about 38% expect their remote employees to work two or more days a week away from the office after the pandemic, compared to 22% before the pandemic. According to an ADP Canada survey, nearly half of working Canadians say they would prefer to work remotely at least three days per week. Employees want to choose how and when work is done. This means that executives should anticipate operating their businesses with a hybrid model—a mix of office time and remote work—of some sort in future.
Hybrid work affects every aspect of a business—the workplace, managing employees, company culture and more. Here are three practices to help you embrace—and prepare—for this post-pandemic future of work.
1. Understand and define your hybrid work model.
If you're already planning to reduce your office space or have already—think again. I don't believe the traditional office is obsolete. Although some tasks can be done remotely in a crisis, they are much more effective in person, such as coaching, counselling, providing advice and feedback, building relationships, and onboarding employees. Many of these tasks require significant rethinking to produce similar outcomes to those achieved in person. As such, many companies will need to retain physical offices, but these offices won't be the same. They must be redesigned and reorganized to create more collaborative meeting spaces and places for social connection.
Ideally, hybrid work is the best of both worlds—structure, sociability, independence, and flexibility. Every company will have to define this for themselves.
Embark on comprehensive data collection and workplace analysis. Understand employee situations—ask and listen to the real challenges and opportunities with hybrid work. Experiment with a range of solutions to address diverse needs and concerns. If you involve your employees in the design of your hybrid work model, they'll return to the workplace with a sense of ownership. They'll know where they belong and how to use the space comfortably because they had a hand in its design. As Stephen Covey so aptly said, "without involvement, there is no commitment."
2. Learn to communicate frequently and transparently.
As the pandemic rages on, we've been hearing from many business leaders that employees' wellbeing and mental health are becoming a significant concern. Failing to provide workers (whether they're in the office or working remotely) with the right communication and support can affect their motivation, productivity and work-life balance. A hybrid work model can also entrench the divide between those in the office and those at remote sites if you're not careful—and potentially magnify the gender gap.
Leaders must learn to communicate frequently and transparently with their teams—to share what's going on with the company, ask for their input and feedback, make time for social connection, and create opportunities for coaching. Look for ways to create shared identity and trust and team norms. Try creating chat threads on Slack or on Teams where team members can talk about common interests outside of work. Use emojis, fun photos and generous compliments to maintain morale and build rapport.
3. Invest in technology and cybersecurity measures.
COVID-19 is a watershed moment for the digital transformation of business. According to the World Economic Forum, digital transformation will lead the global economy post-COVID. Worldwide digital transformation investments will total more than $7.4 trillion over the next four years, according to a 2020 report from the IDC.
There's no doubt that we need to prepare for a digital-first future.
The effects of digital transformation across businesses have been distinct and widespread. Those who already had digital tools in place haven't skipped a beat. Others have had to rapidly deploy new technology and capabilities and expedite others on their roadmap.
Now is the time to ensure technology is in place to support management, engagement, collaboration and performance evaluation. Additionally, companies that develop strong cybersecurity policies and step up their cyber training and exercises have responded effectively to the changing landscape.
If there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that there will be more change. We're in the middle of a change storm—experiencing more change, more often than ever before. Since our contemporary work cultures' pace and intensity are not likely to decrease, it's more important than ever to build change management skills to navigate your work life effectively.