How COVID-19 has rewritten the rules of the workplace

By Katya Linossi, CEO, ClearPeople

When the UK went into lockdown in March of this year, at the time, the effects it would have on businesses were unknown. Many organisations, having never dealt with a global pandemic before, scrambled to either close their offices and ensure employees could work from home, or put health and safety measures in place to keep returning workers safe.

In the midst of thel pandemic we’ve seen social media giant Twitter announce that it’s allowing employees to work from home ‘forever’, should they decide they don’t want to return to the office. Google also made the announcement that it is set to keep its 200,000 strong workforce working from home until July 2021, at the earliest.

For many workers, it still remains to be seen whether the ways of working they’re currently getting used to will stay the same post-Coronavirus. What we do know however, is that COVID-19 has changed the workplace of the future, and that a new ‘blended’ working model – where employees always work from home, from the office, or a mixture of both – will become the norm.

Advice for businesses

We can say with certainty, that COVID-19 has changed the way many see remote working, with a 2020 global study finding that 98% of people want to continue to work remotely for the rest of their careers, and 97% saying they would recommend it to others.

While this ‘new normal’ might be daunting for businesses and HR teams, it’s vital they see remote working as a significant opportunity. We know, on the personal side, this style of work is popular as it allows individuals more freedom and a better work-life balance, but the benefits on the business side, specifically reduced cost, mustn’t be overlooked either.

Here are a few suggestions for HR managers looking to adopt a blended working model in the long-term:

Create connections

Nearly 60% of people recently surveyed as part of Microsoft’s second Work Trend Index, said they feel less connected to their colleagues since working remotely. 

To help counter this, it’s important to encourage teams to hold regular online stand-ups for 10-20 minutes where they can share priorities, updates, achievements and issues – this keeps projects moving and everyone engaged.

It’s also vital to find ways to socialise virtually. Outside of coffee time meetings or virtual “beer-o’clock”, consider holding weekly online meetings for the entire team to check in and get to know each other. Our team has come up with some inventive games like guess the baby photo, displaying a world map with pins that show colleagues born in different countries outside of the UK and more.

Implement inclusivity

According to a study by McKinsey & Co, employees that have their ideas heard are more motivated to come together and outperform other teams financially, by 35%. Alongside this, the same report discovered that gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability and value creation.

One way to make employees feel more included is by encouraging everyone to join meetings remotely. The aforementioned study by Microsoft also revealed that over half (52%) of people feel more valued or included as a remote contributor in meetings because everyone is now in the same virtual room. This feeling was more strongly held by people in China (65%) and Germany (57%). In-meeting chat has also become a channel for more people to share their perspectives. 

Employees are also more likely to feel included if they can contribute ideas, stories and knowledge and in turn, what they have contributed is recognised. Businesses should encourage employees to contribute to their intranet, internal social conversations and knowledge areas. The way to do this is make it easy for more users to add content across different areas without any technical knowledge. 

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace means acquiring a whole wealth of knowledge and experience. It’s new perspectives that keep meetings and ideas fresh, allowing for teams to better work together, even if they aren’t physically in the same room.

Ensure effective communication

One worry for HR teams when it comes to allowing access to remote working in the long-term, is productivity. Many believe the face-to-face interaction in an office is the key to keeping employees engaged, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are two parts to effective communication. One of those is internal comms -where it is important to cultivate an environment of trust and mutual understanding. The other, which is just as important, is how the workforce can communicate.

If your team doesn’t have communication tools, they don’t have collaboration, and they don’t have shared knowledge available in a centralised, secure place. But having just Office 365 or Slack is no longer enough to promote productivity thanks to the ever-changing work landscape we now find ourselves in.

Now, more than ever, is the time to implement a people-first digital workspace solution. It will not only integrate the solutions you already have, but can enable your remote workers to easily find and share information, accelerating productivity and increasing collaboration.

Embrace the blended work model

Last but not least, my advice to those who find themselves in uncharted remote working waters, is to embrace it. For starters, whether we like it or not, remote working is here to stay. But, it also has some real long-term advantages.

Creating a sustainable blended work model in a business will need a cultural shift from leaders. Whether this is utilising technology, understanding that informal interaction will take a hit or ensuring they trust their workers, just simply allowing work from home will not be enough to reap the benefits – it must be embraced.

By implementing the blended work model post-COVID, and ensuring the right tools and processes we’ve just discussed are in place, your business really could benefit from happier, more productive employees.

Author: Editorial Team

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