One of the main things Covid-19 has majorly impacted is the workplace. The global disruption of the labor market in 2020 has short-term and long-term effects with the acceleration of existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation. Millions of people lost their jobs and others had to adjust to the remote workplace with or without reduced pay.Many had to adopt new safety protocols in their business to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. And although most people crave physical interaction and want things to go back to the way they were before, Covid-19 has opened up several possibilities for the future workplace that may be beneficial.
Several studies have shown that most people liked working from home - but they don't want to work remotely every day. 54% of the Steelcase Research subjects admitted that they expect to work from home at least one day per week. And while these trends that have emerged may not fit many businesses and organizations, it's important to consider the options and learn through this situation.
Benefits and Challenges of Working From Home
Before implementing the changes that the pandemic has brought to the surface, it's important to understand the benefits and challenges that individuals faced while working from home for a year.
Engagement and Productivity
Has the pandemic made us more or less productive? That is a question that has many answers. On one hand, people with organized office space at home said that it made them more productive, striving to accomplish many tasks in their workday. On the other hand, many acknowledged a drop in their productivity during the pandemic. This has been credited to the fact that there are many distractions in their home - e.g. kids and household duties. In that sense, the office offers a distraction-free zone that helps the individual to focus on their work.
A great advantage of remote work is the work-life balance that it offers. Without having to commute to get to work, people freed up an important hour (or more) of their day to do something else - a hobby, work-out, studies, or spent more time with their family. This is an important aspect that many corporations forget. Having satisfied employees with a healthy work-life balance translates into better performance.
Speed of Decisions
Decisions during the pandemic have been impacted severely, causing a significant shift in the decision-making process within organizations. The sudden transition to remote work and increased reliance on video calls has led to slower communication between employees and directors. This has resulted in delays in decision-making and a shift in how businesses approach the decision-making process.
One notable challenge that emerged during this time was the difficulty in maintaining focus during long video calls. Unlike in-person meetings, where participants are physically present and distractions are minimized, video calls often lead to decreased attention spans and reduced engagement. This is especially true when individuals are participating in back-to-back virtual meetings, which can quickly lead to fatigue and a decline in productivity.
As businesses navigate the future of the workplace, it is crucial to consider these challenges when determining the best approach. While remote work and virtual meetings have their benefits, it is essential to find a balance that allows for effective communication and decision-making. Finding ways to minimize distractions and maintain engagement during virtual meetings will be crucial in ensuring that decisions are made efficiently and effectively.
Another perk that individuals expect to be incorporated into the new workplace reality is the ability to choose where and when to work every day. This kind of flexibility gives a necessary sense of control to the individual, allowing them to pursue several personal, collaborative, social, and learning needs.
With the ability to choose their work environment, individuals can find a space that best suits their productivity and creativity. Some may prefer the quiet solitude of their home office, while others thrive in the lively atmosphere of a coffee shop or co-working space. By having the freedom to select the ideal work setting, employees can optimize their performance and achieve a better work-life balance.
One of the greatest challenges the individuals faced was isolation. A strong percentage of individuals missed the sense of community the office provided them along with the minor interactions - from the people that sat beside them on the bus to the colleague who will hand them coffee in the office coffee break room. These interactions matter more than we think they do, and they build strong relations of trust between coworkers, enhancing cooperation and increasing performance.
The Hybrid Workplace
After the pandemic, people are expecting flexibility and freedom the work from home option has provided them, but they also crave the community of the office. Several research papers have concluded that the answer is hybrid working, where there are some days at the office and some days at home, or work from anywhere they like. Hence, midway in a hybrid model of work will be the optimal solution when employers plan a safe and productive return to the office.
Having that said, here are some aspects you should consider adapting to the needs of your business model.
Giving your employees an amount of control to choose where and how they work would benefit your business performance and overall company culture. Many individuals have goals outside their work. These goals may be personal, academic, or otherwise So providing your employees with various options, namely one or two days per week remote work, will give the impression of a company accepting and implementing employee feedback and builds trust between employee and employer.
Invest in New Technology
To adhere to those changes, it's important to invest in some new technologies that will improve your team's efficacy and performance. For example, you can make it easy for your employees to decide on which meetings they can do online and which at the office by having an overview of bookable resources (meeting rooms and desks) at the office. Furthermore, you should ensure that you can regulate your resources to your new needs by utilizing workplace analytics that will ensure you have the exact bookable resources you need.
You should also consider investing in an online workplace where everything is tidy, and easy for your employees to navigate so you can enhance productivity and avoid overbooking when employees return to the office.
Build a Community
Another aspect that the pandemic has heightened is the importance of community. The sense of community is extremely significant for employee performance. There are a lot of ways that the office becomes more than just work - organizing employee events and designing the space in a way that is enhancing contact between colleagues are just some examples that you can consider.
To sum up, the pandemic was a trying time for all of us and there are many lessons to be learned. The workplace has changed and will continue to change irrevocably. The big challenge is to find the changes that apply to your situation and implement them in the best way with your know-how.
Looking for more information and guidance?
Check out our article “Everything There Is to Know About Hybrid Work.”, or read our E-Book below.