COVID-19 marked a watershed moment for businesses across all industries. It forced companies to quickly shift work from offices to homes, thus creating an unprecedented reliance on technology. Throughout this period new challenges, opportunities, pains, and gains appeared; the learning curve for all has been steep and then some.
Traditionally, working from home (WFH) was something business leaders strongly resisted. The assumption was that unsupervised employees would slack off and productivity and overall performance would suffer. However, the report carried out by The Economist, ‘Reshaping Productivity, A changed workplace after COVID-19’, supported by Kyocera, details how most CEOs have realized the numerous benefits, both direct and indirect, that arise from a more flexible approach to work. Furthermore, 66.7% of employees surveyed as part of the study believe that the WFH phenomenon is here to stay. The question remains to be seen if business leaders feel the same way once offices return to full capacity.
COVID-19 has had an immense impact on our working and social lives. Now that the dust has begun to settle, employees and managers are facing many uncomfortable questions. Employees spent less time commuting and more time with their families, leading to a happier and more productive lifestyle. According to the report, bosses believe these positive changes have contributed to a productivity increase; their task is to find ways of building upon the things that benefitted both employee and organization.
They must also address issues that didn’t work so well. One such area was communication. The Economist report details that almost 8 in 10 business leaders attributed their team’s decrease in productivity to a lack of tools to facilitate collaboration between their employees.
Although some people mastered the weekly covid zoom quiz with friends, it seems that’s about as far as they got. Poorly prepared companies were left in their starting blocks. Without appropriate collaboration between team members, it was only natural that the performance of the workforce would suffer. Others, meanwhile, struggled with isolation and being away from daily office life, with 68.1% of bosses putting a decrease in performance down to their employee’s mental health.
When examining the varying degrees of success enjoyed by companies in terms of productivity when working from home, The Economist found technology to be a recurring theme. While it proved invaluable in processing and sharing information, a lack of investment in new tools or a lack of training for new technologies proved to be a major issue in many employees’ experience of remote working. Business leaders must now resolve this – and quick.
Well-prepared and trained employees can easily adapt to environmental changes and this was the case during the COVID-19; organizations that were best prepared enjoyed a quick and smooth transition to remote working. Training and technology upgrades are not expenses; they are an investment in the future of your business.
There has been a lot to process, and business leaders must build upon what worked well while addressing shortcomings; the ability to make quick adjustments will separate those who make major gains from those who lag behind. Managers must be creative in their communication with their employees, and the report argues that companies that are more open to technology are likely to increase productivity and produce a more cohesive team. With sufficient training and the right technology, businesses will ultimately become more successful wherever their employees are located.
Looking ahead, the only certainty in the business world is uncertainty. Companies must equip employees with the tools and training to succeed regardless of where they work. They should be able to seamlessly begin a task at home and finish it in the office, and vice versa.
Business leaders can no longer ignore the benefits of hybrid working. Those who fail to do so will hinder the development and growth of their teams and negatively impact their work-life balance.
In a world where marginal gains reap massive rewards, the use of technology can improve performance whether you’re working in Tokyo or Tennessee; technology is here to work alongside humans and open new doors.
It is important to remember that there is no one right way to make WFH work. Every organization has its own culture, workflows, and intricacies, and managers must work alongside their team to find the approach that allows employees to work to the best of their abilities while facilitating a positive work-life balance.
While many questions remain to be answered, the fact that we have entered a fascinating new era of work is undeniable.