Lockdown Forces Life-Work Balance to the Forefront
Work-life balance was about fitting life in around work, now with the demands of the younger generations wanting to prioritise life before work coupled with the unexpected lockdown conditions of COVID 19 it has flipped to fitting work in around life.
For some time, the younger generations have informed us that life experiences are more important to them than money and they don’t hanker after the traditional career path that we used to. They have been raised with technology that allows them to communicate with people anytime from anywhere. So, they expect the same technology and flexible environment in the workplace. Naturally, they can’t fathom why you should be shackled to the same desk in the office, every day from 9.00-17.00. This structured but limiting schedule is not what they are used to nor how they want to live or work. They also hold importance to working at ethical companies that share the same values as them and want to work in a transparent and creative culture with more focus on life than work.
The European workplace now has 160 million millennials in it and is set to increase to 75% of the global workforce, but even with these numbers, businesses are struggling with what they view as unreasonable demands. However, the global pandemic has turned the world upside down and with the COVID-19 lockdown businesses have no choice but to enable home working and be more tolerant and adapt to their employees environment, needs and requirements.
The question is – will this change the UK’s workplace forever? We believe indeed it will.
A Value Added Workforce
Due to the lockdown of COVID-19, employees are working at home and now companies need to think about how to optimise their remote workforce. How can they add value to their employees and how can the remote workforce add value to the business? The pandemic will force businesses to change their views on working behaviours, simply because now they have no choice; moving away from a traditional mindset to being more open minded to new ways of working and improving operational, and customer service processes.
The big growth area is team working which reflects the COVID-19 tag line ‘we are all in this together’ and it is true people make a difference working together as a team. Stronger together than alone.
Cloud based conferencing and collaboration tools such as Mitel’s MiTeam Meetings and Avaya’s Spaces enable employees to hold audio and video conference calls over their desktop or via a mobile. They can also send instant messages, share and work on documents and presentations together. Being able to let colleagues easily know if you’re at lunch, or on some other task and working later removes the frustration of not being able to get hold of a team member and enables easier collaboration.
Let’s not forget the value of communication for removing the feeling of isolation. Keeping home workers involved and updated is becoming a natural part of behaviour at present and will do much in the future to ensure that those working remotely are not forgotten but remain an integral part of the team. People who feel valued will go the extra mile.
Team working presents the opportunity to collect, store and manage knowledge. Data is the new oil and if collected correctly through remote knowledge-based solutions that integrate with the front and back office systems this information can be utilised to improve and grow your business.
Flexible Working Hours
Many employees based at home in the lockdown conditions that COVID-19 has bought will be juggling working and home schooling which is no easy task! Of course they will still be able to work and do their jobs but maybe not in their regular hours. Sometimes work does need to be completed in real time but often it doesn’t matter if it is done in business hours or not. Managers will need to be flexible and open here so employees can prioritise their personal lives and family first during these unprecedented times before work.
Working from home or remotely should not be about the number of hours you work, or the number of calls taken or emails answered. The focus should not be on the quantitative output but surely on the qualitive result, and with this the shift is moving from a transactional workforce to a value based team.
COVID-19 has bought this issue to the forefront but this is how the younger generation want to work and it is also how freelancers work. The gig economy is now 4.8 million people in the UK and set to grow so it is worth managers reflecting on changing their mindset on the antiquated view of working business hours.
Looking with New Eyes
Managers have historically struggled to trust employees to work from home because they can’t see them physically in the office and think that when they are at home they will be doing their own thing. Trust needs to be given and not earnt; your employees are adults so you must not only empower them but also give them the autonomy to do their jobs, and sometimes this may not be accordingly to traditional working hours or conditions.
Requests for working remotely or flexibly after the lockdown period will become more common because employees will be used to it and see the benefits, as too hopefully will the employers. Working behaviours must be viewed with new eyes and the ability to shake off traditional and historic working conditions and behaviours are vital.
It is a new way of working and just because you are not working or sitting at your desk from 9.00-17.00 does not mean you are not productive. In fact you are probably more productive working less hours and doing things you enjoy to help boost your mindset and productivity. So, it is time to rid the feelings of guilt and tradition, and welcome in new working behaviours.
It must be remembered that if employees are not doing their work then you will find out, the evidence of their lack of work will be there as it is less easy for people to carry you when you are alone at home working. Solutions that measure employees’ productivity, close of sales or enquiries and KPIs are available which not only enable you to track their work but also to highlight areas for development and focus.
Moving from Transactional to Value
We believe that this lockdown period will highlight to employers that some transactional jobs such as data entry would benefit from automation with technology. Businesses will need to recoup lost money and budgets will be tighter than ever so saving human resource for value added more complex roles is more beneficial than carrying out menial tasks. Automation solutions and AI solutions will enable businesses to improve operational and customer service processes.
Change is Here Now
The new world of work will be a footprint left behind from the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses will now be aware that home or remote working can boost employees’ productivity and will be forced to look at new ways of working, and how operational and business processes can be and need to be improved.
This is an opportunity to change the workplace forever; for the better.
Author Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies.