The pandemic affected our work: when, where, and how we do it.
Companies were forced to implement remote work overnight. Meanwhile, employees have shown that they can be productive even when they are not in the office. Neither have 9 to 5 hours. Nor do face-to-face meetings. Nor are they traveling.
But, as vaccines are distributed, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to get a little closer, how many of these changes from the pandemic will last?
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While some companies are eager to get “back to business as usual,” others are banking on remote work.
In May, Twitter reported that some employees who want to work from home forever can. And DropBox said that now “virtual will come first.” This means that many employees will continue to work most of the time remotely. Meanwhile, Google plans to test a flexible workweek, with employees coming to the office at least three times a week.
The F word for pandemic work
Employees proved that they could be productive from home. So flexibility at work is here to stay, experts predict.
The hybrid workforce consists of some workers in the office while others carry out their tasks remotely. A model that allows employees to choose what works best for them. That could mean that workers will go to the office on some days of the week, rotate weeks between work and home, or have only a few office visits per year.
“I think there will be few organizations that go 100% remote,” said Erica Volini, Deloitte’s global human capital leader.
How to relieve stress from remote work in a pandemic
A distributed workforce can be difficult to manage. It requires thorough communication, well-defined goals, and priority setting, and strategic planning.
“There have to be new ways of measuring productivity and understanding what workers produce,” said Volini. “The way to measure when you can not see them (workers) physically or interact with them will be quite a significant change,” he completed.
Plus, flexibility isn’t just about offering a choice from where employees work. It could also mean more companies rethinking the traditional 40-hour workweek. For example, Unilever piloted a four-day full-pay workweek for its employees in New Zealand.
Beyond health and dentistry
There is no hiding the demands that working parents face when working from home. And balancing work and family life are undoubtedly tricky, from children showing up unexpectedly at Zoom meetings to virtual learning that consumes much of the day.
Even after kids go back to school, companies will continue to look for ways to support working parents, according to Melanie Tinto, director of human resources at Wex, a financial technology service provider.
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That could mean additional benefits. For example, tutoring assistance, financial planning, parenting hotlines, and more mental health benefits for the whole family.
The Office Makeover for Remote Work in the Pandemic
With fewer people who visit the office regularly, companies are likely to reconsider their real estate needs.
“Many companies will end up with too much office space,” said Chester Spatt, a finance professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. “There is going to be a great reconfiguration.”
Along those lines, perks like office gyms, dry cleaning services, and free snacks lose some of their lusters if people spend more time working from home.
This would be the new way of working after the pandemic
“The era of office ping pong tables is over,” Volini said.
Companies are likely to focus on creating spaces for more teamwork and collaboration than individual stations.
Dropbox is redesigning its office spaces. And part of that includes removing individual desks to create more places for collaboration.
REI announced plans to switch to a more distributed work model earlier this year. He then sold his new corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington. Instead, the outdoor activities retailer plans to have multiple satellite locations throughout the region.
Monitoring remote employees could increase when things get back to normal, warned Roshni Raveendhran, an assistant professor of business administration at the University of Virginia.
Employee monitoring software can track productivity, block websites, monitor activity, and track keystrokes.
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“Companies, especially given the current reality of working from home, resorted to a lot of intensive electronic monitoring and invested a ton of money in this process,” Raveendran said.
He also added that monitoring could be a slippery slope. “Once organizations invest in monitoring tools and start new monitoring practices, it will be easy for them to continue those practices when things get back to normal.”
Raveendran said companies should make it “informative” rather than “evaluative.” For example, giving employees the first access to their data.
“In this way, monitoring itself is seen as a way to obtain helpful information about one’s behaviors—this, instead of worrying about being judged negatively by their bosses.