The wider impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be visible across all aspects of our lives: from the how and where we work, to the way we communicate and interact. As millions of people around the world were forced into lockdown, both small and big businesses from every sector had no other choice but to adapt and to ensure the safety of their employees while continuing to remain operational. Social distancing guidelines meant that work from home (WFH) took a whole new dimension and, considering the many benefits this new approach to work has yielded, it would be accurate to say that remote working is here to stay in some shape or form.
According to a report carried by The Economist, ‘Reshaping Productivity, A changed workplace after COVID-19,’ conducted in May 2021 and supported by Kyocera, 66.7% of respondents believe that remote work is likely to continue beyond the pandemic.
For many employees, remote work has become the new norm. Irrespective of the role, the investigation undertaken by The Economist reveals that there is a decreasing expectation for workers to always be at the office. But this new way of working, that many are now accustomed to, has not come without its own set of obstacles for both the employee and employer.
Businesses had to ensure business continuity amidst the multiple operational challenges that they had to resolve. The pandemic obliged businesses to dramatically shift their ways of working almost overnight, while playing their part in minimizing the spread of COVID-19 and sustaining productivity levels.
Within a short period of time, many companies had to scramble to get their IT infrastructure ready for their employees, providing them with reliable equipment and ensuring they have a stable internet connection at home for a successful WFH experience.
Unsurprisingly, communication was and continues to be paramount when working remotely. With physical interactions and meetings suddenly restricted, companies had to find new ways of communicating effectively. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became essential tools to share information, collaborate with colleagues and stay in touch.
As identified in the report, technology played an instrumental role in allowing work to continue uninterrupted through the pandemic. Among those who believe productivity decreased with staff working from home, almost four in ten attribute the decline to their employees not having access to tools for information management.
Therefore, increasing the uptake of digital tools and providing the adequate training continues to be crucial to fully support employees and ensure a seamless remote experience.
Working from home also meant that many were faced with personal challenges with regards their own private or family situations. Parents were tasked with juggling work with taking care of children who needed their own space for studying or playing. Cramped or makeshift workspaces was another issue that some employees had to overcome. The traditional 9-5 workday did not fit with many people’s reality – flexibility became key. Many companies began to offer work arrangements that suited the personal needs of their employees, such as alternative start and end times.
With constant changes happening, many organizations are still coming to grips with new ways of operating and are slowly coming to terms with this new and constantly evolving work model. Uncertainty will continue to be a key part of the business world and companies must continue to invest into the necessary digital infrastructure and training, so that their employees can make the most of their expertise.
Hence, it is no surprise that one of the top priorities for HR is redesigning their processes to adjust to a more remote or blended office work model according to the research gathered in the report.
Future work models are still unclear. But what is certain is that organizations must embrace flexibility and prepare for a hybrid model of working if they want to compete in the future world of work. To prosper, they must transform the challenges of the shifting workplace trends into opportunities for growth.