As we continue to understand the full impact of the pandemic, one thing is for certain - the future of work is destined for change. With digital transformation taking place on an unprecedented level, it will become imperative for organisations to listen to their employees, rethink their strategy to sustain their existing organisational culture and quickly adapt new communications systems that align with the new way of working. While organizations are re-looking at establishing a healthy virtual culture, they are also striving to maintain the spirit of innovation at the same time. Businesses are reconsidering how to enable collaboration and teamwork by providing the tools and technologies that fuel innovation.
COVID-19 has forced many organizations and small businesses to change overnight, pushing many to start from scratch – which is not an easy feat. However, with the power of technology, today we have the ability to better prepare for the future of work, to understand the challenges and opportunities, develop new policies and solutions that can effectively bridge these transitions. Artificial intelligence, automation, and robotics will play a huge role in making this shift effortless and are as significant as the mechanization in prior generations of agriculture and manufacturing. While some jobs will be lost, and many others created, almost all will change. A human- centered agenda is the order of the day, one that places importance on the confluence of technology and people-driven disruption. Hence, a heavy emphasis will have to be made on culture and collaboration to foster innovation.
Transitioning to a Hybrid Workplace
Over the years, companies have been implementing work-from-home policies to some extent or the other; but COVID-19 has compelled everyone to join the bandwagon. As employees continue to accept and implement a newer way of working, there must also be changes that cater to the new requirements. The pandemic has been a catalyst accelerating the adoption of hybrid workforce strategies by industries, where employees have the choice of working virtually for a few days a week and at the workplace for the rest (or a combination thereof depending on the demands of their roles). In this new way of working, organizations need to ensure that employees can adjust and continue working productively in this hybrid environment.
We will need to take a relook at the blueprint to see if teams need restructuring to avoid any gaps. Questions such as what existing training programs need to be revised to suit the current situation, how to automate self-help services, what platforms can be used to keep employees connected, would an application based strategy help all employees, how to secure data etc. need to be raised. Over and above, we should be more invested in employees to keep them motivated and productive. While the workforce has transitioned into a work-from-home model, it’s important to encourage and invest in them to not lose momentum. India today has a large segment of employees who are in Generation Z and are living in a freelance economy - working from anywhere is the new norm and technology is definitely accelerating the growth of the gig economy in India.
Acing Virtual Collaboration
With employees having practically no physical engagement with each other, organizations may witness hampered positive collaborations. Siloed teams disconnected from each other can be detrimental to teamwork and the subsequent innovations that may take place. Realigning efforts into inculcating an entrepreneurial mindset in your people is key, where employees take the lead on the disruptive innovations they are working on or otherwise. A good way to practice this would be to have initiatives throughout the year, dedicated to giving employees a few days to plug out of routine work and spend time working on projects or innovations that will challenge them to take on stretch assignments across teams, with nailing the collaborative mindset, making it fun yet competitive.
Creating a digital workplace with collaborative virtual tools will support the changing team dynamics. Keeping the usual schedules of team meetings, brain-storming sessions and off-line interactions via video calls helps add to this balance. This should not be seen as a barrier, but an opportunity to connect more easily with team members and acknowledge their efforts to instill a positive environment.
Ensuring workplace happiness in a remote environment
Organisations spend years building their culture, it’s not easy to reinforce it in a virtual environment as well as modernize it to suit a hybrid working model. When teams are working remotely, inclusion becomes more essential. Inculcating a culture of belonging will be the goal for any organisation. Communicating in a timely and consistent manner helps in maintaining a semblance of normality. Activities such as Town Halls, Virtual Engagement activities, casual virtual get togethers etc. will enhance this experience.
Today, diversity and inclusion has a new perspective because everyone has their own experiences and challenges during the pandemic. Paying extra attention towards continuous engagement will enable the workforce to bring their whole-selves to work, do the best work of their lives, and in sustaining the company’s culture in the new normal.
While work pressure continues, there is added stress of managing household responsibilities and anxiety of the pandemic. A ‘one solution for all’ will not help as everyone has unique experiences. We need to take out time and invest in our employees’ mental wellbeing. People can only deliver on their work when they feel safe, secure and motivated. For them to be able to deliver awesome results, even while working remotely, employers and leaders should relook at how they approach employee policies and mental health. Leaders need to be more mindful about people having a hard time and how they can help each other. This will keep the core culture of the company alive even in a virtual environment - it's all about looking out for your people.
The future is now our present, and we are living in the reality of the new-age work environment. People had imagined it for many years from now, but we are fortunate to harness it. It behooves organizations to continue to understand the challenges and opportunities this hybrid way of working brings and come up with novel approaches to increase collaboration and innovation.