As organisations seek to emerge from the COVID crisis and move towards the recovery phase, they’re embracing the opportunity to rethink their Workplace Experience. From remote working to nurturing virtual relationships, businesses are adapting to the ‘new normal’. Here are five workplace trends we’ve observed.
1. Remote working versus working from home
There’s a tendency to talk about remote working and working from home as if they’re the same. But those terms aren’t always interchangeable.
For example, remote working could refer to a knowledge worker operating from home or another location. But it can also mean construction workers on job sites, a nurse on the hospital floor, or any other frontline role.
Working from home means taking on a different set of responsibilities and accountabilities, whether that’s looking after children or sharing spaces with housemates. Working from home can also create a range of different issues compared to remote working.
There isn’t a blanket definition of what constitutes “a good working from home experience”. The key here is context. Understanding what an effective, flexible Workplace Experience means for specific workers in their role.
Salespeople will have different needs compared to service or product development professionals. Leaders need to appreciate that specific workers operate differently and need access to specific tools, data, platforms and devices to be effective in their roles while working from home.
2. Democratising remote working
While knowledge workers can usually work remotely relatively easily, frontline workers typically need to be in a specific location or physically nearby others to carry out their roles. So, it’s often simpler for knowledge workers to find continuity amid disruption compared to their field or frontline colleagues.
But remote working shouldn’t be considered the sole domain of the knowledge worker.
Until now, there have been reasons for companies to avoid going “all in” and enabling remote working for every type of worker – whether that’s the technology, productivity or culture. The pandemic is challenging those perceptions and forcing firms to democratise remote working by making it possible for everyone, not just knowledge workers.
3. Taking the employee experience virtual
For some organisations and workers, the transition to a virtual employee experience has been jarring. Those who’ve achieved a more seamless switch moved quickly to address the key technology and cultural considerations.
From a tech perspective, close partnership with IT has helped some organisations enable a smoother, speedier move to remote working, with employees better prepared and able to address challenges like bandwidth and security. Culturally, maintaining employee engagement has proved just as pivotal. People crave interactions and enabling those “water cooler moments” virtually is crucial.
4. Building personal relationships and leading a remote team
Relationship-based businesses previously relied on face-to-face interactions, but the COVID crisis has fuelled demand for consumer-grade technology to maintain personal relationships. Employees are more comfortable using social networks, consumer apps and familiar technologies to keep in touch with family and friends remotely.
This is a great opportunity to challenge how we can build and sustain relationships in the business world. For example, using Microsoft Teams to host meetings, brainstorms or even events.
Leaders must act as ambassadors for the change in behaviour they want to encourage.
5. Opportunities for organisations to evolve
Finally, it’s important to look at remote working as a stepping stone in a broader workplace journey. It’s a waypoint, not the destination.
Building and maintaining a successful Workplace Experience requires a holistic approach and ongoing focus. Remote working won’t be the last challenge that organisations face. To address workplace challenges in the future and build a more resilient business, companies need to embrace three interconnected Workplace Experience drivers – employee experience and culture, transformed business operations and an Elastic Digital Workplace.
The pandemic has shown what’s possible from a business continuity perspective when HR, IT and line of business leaders work together to enable remote working. Just imagine what you can do if you partner with your peers to focus on a broader workplace transformation and build a more agile organisation for an increasingly uncertain future.
For further information on how to achieve a safe and seamless return to physical workspaces, take a look at our guide here.