How to Prepare for the Future of Work
As vaccination rates continue to increase and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, more and more companies are starting to reopen their offices, including major corporations such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google. And as business leaders and employees return to the office, they’re finding themselves in a workplace that looks very different compared to the pre-pandemic era.
While we may yearn for things to go back to how they once were, it’s already clear the pandemic has permanently impacted the way we do business for years to come, requiring us to acclimate ourselves to what’s being called a “new normal.” Here are some of the ways businesses can get ready for the new future of work in the waning days of the pandemic and in the years to come.
Upgrade Your Cleaning Practices
According to a national cleaning survey, 85 percent of Americans plan to maintain the same hygiene and cleaning habits they adopted at the start of the pandemic. This suggests that even after the pandemic is over, concerns about disinfecting and sanitizing the office will likely remain for the long haul. Office workers will not just desire but expect a clean and safe environment, which means as businesses transition back on-site, they should invest in upgrading their cleaning protocols as a long-term practice.
In a survey by SERVPRO, companies reported the following updates to their office cleaning and safety practices as a result of COVID-19:
- 34 percent use both a certified CDC-approved cleaning company and a janitorial service
- 63 percent clean the office several times per day
- 92 percent limit group meetings
- 51 percent provide additional hand sanitizer or hand sanitizer stations
- 35 percent take employees’ temperatures daily
Consider these protocols as you plan for the future and, if possible, conduct a return-to-work survey to determine which practices will make your associates feel the most comfortable.
Make Hybrid Work a Permanent Policy
While the transition to remote work was a challenge for a lot of workers at the beginning of the pandemic, as we approach the end of 2021, it’s clear that not only have associates adapted to working from home, but they by and large prefer it.
According to a recent survey from the tech firm Accenture, nearly 85 percent of respondents feel that a hybrid structure is optimal for a productive, healthy workforce. In fact, 63 percent of high-growth businesses enable their teams to work on a hybrid basis (25–75 percent remotely). This, the research also points out, yields various benefits: These hybrid employees tend to exhibit positive mental health outcomes, strong coworker relationships, and less burnout.
In order to retain your current team members and recruit new talent — not to mention, reap the benefits of happier, healthier employees — consider offering hybrid or remote work as a permanent option.
Invest in Hybrid-Friendly Technology
While there are clear benefits to a permanent hybrid work model, technology remains a hurdle for many teams who alternate between their homes and the office. Although digital remote work tools are deemed necessary, 75 percent of HR leaders feel that too large a tech stack can lead to cognitive exhaustion and virtual overload among hybrid workers, research from Gartner indicates. So it’s crucial to build a well-balanced tech stack that allows your company to foster connection, streamline communication, and manage production — but without technology overwhelm. The key is to find the right software products for your company’s unique needs, and that can take time and research.
Thankfully, over the course of the pandemic, more and more software companies have invested in product enhancements to better suit the needs of a remote workforce. The result is a wide variety of technology offerings for businesses looking to adapt to the hybrid mode. Project management tools and video conferencing technologies are especially important for hybrid teams. Additionally, the latest hybrid work management software can help businesses navigate and streamline check-ins and safety screenings, take workplace attendance, and manage desk assignments and workplace capacity.
Retool Your Organizational Culture
One of the main problems that remote or hybrid teams have continued to face during the pandemic is a feeling of disconnection from their leaders, co-workers, and the organization as a whole, reports McKinsey & Co. If unchecked, this issue can affect morale and increase turnover rates.
As you plan for the future of work, it’s wise to reevaluate your company culture in light of the new hybrid workplace and adopt policies that will strengthen connection and reduce burnout. Start with the following tips from the communication experts at 4PSA for boosting employee engagement and morale:
- Redesign your meetings to make them shorter and more productive.
- Empower your mid-level managers to act on the feedback they receive from direct reports.
- Encourage your team members to step away from their computers and take an actual lunch break, whether they’re at home or in the office.
- Recognize employees for the contributions they make and the value they bring.
Listen to Your Employees
While it’s important to stay educated on the latest workplace trends and HR advice, there’s no substitute for listening to your associates about their needs and feelings. Conduct a company-wide return-to-work survey and invite continual feedback from associates about what they’re looking for in this new environment.
Consider as well a comprehensive employee engagement survey which can help your company learn about associates’ new expectations for the post-pandemic workplace and gain actionable insights to foster connection and boost employee satisfaction. You might get some brilliant suggestions from your team along the way.
Now Is the Time to Prepare for the Future of Work
If the global pandemic has shown the business world anything, it’s how adaptable we are to change. In the post-COVID climate, leaders and organizations should be prepared to continue to evolve in the face of a new normal workplace. This will take intentionality, time, and teamwork, but the effort will be sure to pay off in terms of employee morale and, ultimately, business growth in the new economy.