The rules of the post-covid workplace are still largely unknown. But some trends are emerging, and it is important to prepare for yet another transition.
According to the February 2021 McKinsey & Company report, The Future of Work After COVID-19, 20 to 25 percent of workers in advanced economies could work remotely three or more days a week on a long-term basis in a post-COVID workplace. Many companies had already started adopting telecommuting policies. The pandemic only expedited this practice. Digitization and automation are two additional trends that have accelerated due to COVID-19. The e-commerce industry is booming, and the use of artificial intelligence and robotics for skills automation is increasing by day.
What does this mean for day-to-day organizational norms in 2021?
Many organizations are exploring a hybrid workplace, with employees going to a physical office a few days a week and working from home the other days. Some questions to think through as you create your own remote work policies going forward:
- When does it make sense for employees to go to the office in the future?
- What work can be accomplished at home, and what meetings could take place virtually?
- How can you honor employees’ preferences, desire for work-life balance, and other needs?
- What are the equity issues involved in both remote and in-person work?
With more than a year of virtual-only colleague connections, people are burning through their social capital. The lack of in-person time is affecting organizational culture, too. Many employees are hanging on to cultural norms from a pre-COVID era, and many of these shared experiences are no longer relevant. How are you going to reinvent your organization’s culture to accurately reflect your 2021 talent, practices, and expectations?
There is a dire need for companies to adopt remote meeting best practices. Because many organizations moved from in-person interactions to Zoom overnight, people have been learning virtual work etiquette along the way.
The pandemic has taken a toll on every worker, and in different ways. We are still discovering the long-term effects of living in near isolation for more than a year. Your employees will need the organization to support their ongoing work-life juggling, provide resources for mental health challenges, and create a safe space for them to navigate a new post-COVID reality.
In 2020, some people lost jobs while some industries could not hire fast enough. The talent marketplace is ripe with opportunity for employees to reskill as they prepare to enter a different profession or upskill for a new role. How is your organization defining the capabilities you need for the future and creating career pathways that guide your employees to their next job?
The workplace is not the only arena that has experienced overwhelming change. Companies have shifted entire business models and reinvented their product and service offerings due to new customer demands. Many clients are not comfortable meeting in-person and may not be for some time. Focus on scenario planning to strategically anticipate and prepare for a range of customer interactions and ongoing product and service shifts.
Most of us were not prepared for 2020. Do not let 2021 and 2022 surprise you, too. A new normal is emerging, and those organizations that prepare their employees, offices, policies, and procedures will lead the rest in setting best practices for our post-COVID workplace.