Covid-19 has been hugely disruptive to business, but it has also pushed the reset button on the way we operate.
Now we have a unique and exciting opportunity to take what we’ve learnt over the course of the pandemic to forge a stronger workplace and a brighter future.
Working from Home (WFH) is perhaps the biggest change to have come out of the last 18 months in terms of professional life. At first seen as a stop-gap, it swiftly became the norm. But we’re discovering now that WFH hasn’t merely enabled continuity, it has actually pushed productivity up, Deloitte analysis finds.
The transition came with little warning, but in adapting successfully we have shown our great resilience as a workforce, and revealed latent strengths as collaborators and problem solvers in the digital age.
Our online skills have matured, with three quarters of office workers saying they have used at least two new types of technology for work since lockdown began.
WFH has also helped to break down hierarchies and silos. Decisions are being made quicker and with more people involved, allowing us to move forward fairer and with greater efficiency.
“We can actually bring down the number of layers in the organization through a more project-based [approach],” says Sigve Brekke, President and CEO at telecommunications company, Telenor Group.
More profoundly, the switch to WFH has forced leaders to rely on employees to perform without being supervised, and this has engendered trust.
Through trust, teams and individuals have cooperated, connected and communicated more effectively. We’re understanding one another better, and with a stronger awareness of how we can be at our best, we are recognising the true value of wellbeing.
The hybrid future
As economies rebuild, a return to the traditional office environment does not seem likely, or even worth it. Indeed, most senior business leaders do not feel such a move would take place. On the other hand, few of us would wish to go back to conditions as they were through lockdown.
As employers, to do this successfully we need to commit to making WFH available while keeping access open to main offices. By reimagining the layout and design of office space, companies can open up creative areas where employees can complete duties with others or alone, while still being in touch with the core team.
Co-working locations or regional office hubs can enrich the offering, bringing convenience to individuals who want the office-base structure, but without the usual commute.
A key benefit is highlighted in a Gartner study “C-Suite, Redesigning Work for a Hybrid Future”, which finds that the number of high performers in a company can rise by up to 40% when afforded “radical flexibility”. But there’s a bigger picture.
A culture of care
By getting hybrid right, and by successfully implementing flexibility, we stand to galvanise the employer-employee relationship, and cultivate corporate cultures built on empathy, transparency and care.
The strongest leaders have adapted quickly, communicating with their people through formal and informal pathways, listening to concerns and taking constructive, informed action to change the workplace for the better.
As the global economy recovers, the employment market will be more competitive than ever, and we find ourselves at a fork in the road. Companies that choose to learn from our collective experiences through the pandemic will know the value of asking questions and doing the best for their people.
These players will stand out from the competition as progressive employers offering an environment engineered for lasting success.