A friend of mine recently remarked to her husband, “I just want things to go back to normal”, his response: “This IS normal now”.
While these are true words in every sense, they are especially relevant to the future of work.
And as always of late, we have the Pandemic to thank for altering the employment market irreversibly. Because with Covid-19, now more than ever, traditional barriers to recruitment are breaking down. Worldwide competition for the best staff is heating up and employees are in full control due to the many opportunities provided by remote working and the availability of global employment solutions.
Luckily, concerns with the new way of working forced upon us in early 2020 — would employees take advantage of remote roles, would company culture diminish without in-person interactions and would systems cope with home-based employees — have proved largely unfounded. In fact, throughout the pandemic, employees have risen to the challenges of flexible and distributed working with improvements in productivity, employee satisfaction, recruitment and cost savings.
The days of straight, office-based, 9–5 desk jobs are well and truly gone.
Adapt or be left behind
I’ve previously spoken about the need for organisations to adapt to this new way of working in risk of getting left behind. By implementing strategies such as systemising and streamlining hiring processes and developing strategies to retain their top tech talent, companies can ensure that they can recruit and retain the best employees.
But as the world largely returns to a post-pandemic state (at least for now), companies must continue to adapt. To fully embrace the new future beyond Covid-19, a ‘reset’ of the modern workplace is needed. Now is the time to cement workforce practices that not only speak to this new way of working but are sustainable and beneficial to both employer and employee.
But what does this new era of work look like? And how can companies develop innovative, inclusive and relevant strategies that speak to what employees really want? Let’s dig in.
The future of your workforce
While there are many aspects to succeeding in the future of work, below, I highlight 3 key areas company decision-makers can focus on right now to thrive in the “new normal”.
Continue to offer opportunities for flexible working
During the pandemic, many companies were forced into providing the ability to work remotely. Now, it’s no longer a case of wondering IF a company should continue to offer flexible or distributed working, but HOW. In fact, a recent survey showed that flexible working is now a top priority for employees and that even when it’s safe to do so, only 13% of employees wish to return to in-person work exclusively.
While the model of flexible working will vary by industry and company, offering options for different models of work is paramount. For some, this may take the form of different start times in line with when employees feel most productive, school term time contracts, working from home, or even a 4-day work week.
However, in all cases, for flexible arrangements to succeed, communication is key. All parties must be clear on the expectations and responsibilities of each employee. There must be ongoing reviews of arrangements and clear channels in place to keep everyone informed.
Focus on the employee experience
In this new era, now more than ever, leaders must carefully consider all aspects of the employee experience. This includes tasks such as successfully onboarding new members of staff (creating a great company experience from the start), offering clear pathways for development and continuing to recognise and reward existing employees.
Because at every point in their journey, employees need to feel like valued members of an organisation. They need to be empowered and motivated with a clear purpose. This is especially applicable to the new workforce generation- if they don’t believe in a company’s mission or feel connected with that company, they won’t be motivated. One way in which you can ensure that employees feel valued is not only by asking for their feedback, but by showing how company practices have adapted in line with their suggestions.
Recognise employee wellbeing as essential
Awareness of the impact of the new way of working on employee wellbeing is crucial, as poor mental health can have a detrimental impact on productivity, absenteeism and overall morale.
Remote working has naturally blurred the boundaries between our professional and personal lives, something which can easily impact our health. In practice, this means we must take a holistic view of our employees and look beyond just worklife. To do this, I recommend developing company policies and training programs to include initiatives to support employees both physically, mentally and emotionally. I encourage you to think outside the box here and to explore ideas such as fitness or charity challenges, team building experiences and the importance of both yoga and meditation to encourage overall wellbeing.
And of course, it goes without saying that raising awareness of the importance of mental health amongst staff is also critical. Give employees clear channels to access when they need help and remove any stigma associated with asking for help.
The fourth Industrial Revolution is coming
One key aspect of the new Era of Work and all the strategies I discuss above is the use of technology. Indeed, world economic leaders have long spoken about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another”. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an opportunity for company decision-makers to maximise efficiency (and therefore profit) by using technology wherever possible. If a machine can do a task in less time, and with less expense than a human, I urge you to explore the possibilities.
But, there are some aspects of work that machines will never be able to do and this is where good leaders need to step up. We must teach our employees to excel in the skills that only humans have. This includes developing softer skills such as collaboration, empathy, communication, and independent thinking. Because, yes, technology has opened incredible doors, but to thrive in this new normal we must also recognise, develop and value the skills that only humans possess.
The employment world will never be the same
The new era of work and the upcoming fourth Industrial Revolution present many exciting opportunities for companies that can rise to the challenge. In fact, for organisations who are willing to adapt, the employment world has truly opened up and the possibilities are endless.
Part of our work at Landing.Jobs is to support companies in adapting to this new era, so if you need a hand adapting to this new normal, feel free to reach out to us.