It’s been over a year since the world went into lockdown and there was a sudden shift to remote working. COVID-19 triggered the biggest work from home experiment in history, with employee and employer values and perceptions shifting significantly.
What are some of the trends that have been growing as we move towards a re-opened world?
1. Home-like offices
Office spaces are being designed to incorporate elements that are found in homes to simulate a sanctuary for employees. Wellness company Goop’s headquarters in Santa Monica feature velvety upholstery, plush carpets and curved lines. “Natural, warm materials and soft tones create a welcoming environment, allowing the Goop team to feel at home,” says Sam Farhang, president and creative director of Rapt Studio which designed the space.
Because work is no longer tied to a geographical location and people can work from anywhere, increasing numbers of people are choosing to relocate to quieter, more scenic locales. Some are leaving big cities for suburban towns and some are moving to other countries to work. Barbados, among others, has even introduced remote work visa programmes. The aim is to entice professionals to live in the country while working for a company abroad. Companies are becoming employers of multi-state employees.
3. Hybrid work
Many organisations want employees back in the office. While some employees support a return to the traditional work setting, others are thriving working from home. In response, employers are starting to balance the dichotomous needs of their staff by offering hybrid work models. For a few days a week, staff can work remotely while the rest of the week they go into the office. According to a recent Gartner report, 48% of employees will most likely work remotely at least part of the time after the pandemic, versus 30% before the crisis.
4. Humanising business
The pandemic has taken a significant mental toll on employees and their wellbeing has become important to employers as they need to keep the workforce productive. Organisations are finding ways to support their staff during this difficult time. Wellbeing initiatives have been on the rise as employers seek to alleviate the unusually high stress levels that this pandemic has brought on. According to Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at mental health charity, Mind, “companies who invest in staff wellbeing typically report increased staff morale and productivity as well as reduced sickness absence and turnover.”
5. Flexible working hours
The blurred boundary between work and home has made it difficult for many employees to maintain a 9-to-5 workday. As a result, employees are working in chunks of time spaced out beyond traditional work hours, according to their household and family commitments. Organisations are optimising flexibility for staff to achieve maximum productivity. Jesper Schultz, CEO and co-founder of BasicOps, a San Francisco-based company, allowed his team to adjust their hours according to their other commitments. He says that the flexibility encourages workers to prioritise their own wellness and be more motivated and productive while working.
6. Performance monitoring
With the vast majority of employees working remotely it has become difficult for employers to keep track of their productivity. Various tools that enable managers to monitor the performance of their staff have become available. A California-based software company Prodoscore has created a product which allows employers to see their employees’ daily work performance. But this does raise ethical concerns about micromanagement and the lack of trust that this implies, which could hinder the performance of employees.
7. An increase in freelance and temporary employment
Recent Gartner research found that 32% of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. Companies are trying to keep their fixed costs to a minimum. This has led to a rise in the percentage of contract work versus permanent work. Seen as a strategy to increase resilience in the face of the uncertainty of vaccine rollouts around the world, companies are adopting a cautious approach to recruitment of new staff.
8. Global workforce
Remote working has resulted in human talent no longer being bound by geographical boundaries. Businesses now have access to skills from anywhere in the world. This opens up opportunities for a diverse workforce with a variety of skills not necessarily found locally. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, is an organisation whose workforce is entirely distributed. Team members hail from 36 countries around the world.
COVID-19 has accelerated many of the above workplace trends that were growing pre-pandemic. While there is uncertainty regarding when there will be worldwide herd immunity following vaccination programmes, and concerns of multiple waves of the virus, the world has been gradually opening up. While we are transitioning to the next normal, these trends are becoming entrenched in current business models.
What trends do you see your company implementing?
How can your organisation take advantage of these future of work trends?
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By Faeeza Khan
Image credit: Vlada Karpovich