Workplaces Adjusting to Change in the Wake of COVID-19
How employees and employers might function post-pandemic
As companies reopen and employees return to work, change, safety and flexibility in the workplace appear to be the new normal.
When businesses re-evaluate their human capital needs under this new reality, they will need to build in more flexibility. Employees working remotely pushed companies to implement work-at-home policies faster than planned. Employers had to quickly learn how to effectively manage a remote workforce and collaborate digitally.
A recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. Companies that have successfully set up telecommute programs may want to continue to offer opportunities for remote or partial remote schedules. If your company does not yet have a remote work policy, it’s not too late to start. Statistics show that having employees telecommute benefits companies, saving on things like rent for office space and will also benefit workers by saving on the costs associated with commuting time. There are also environmental benefits with less cars on the road.
Employees had to adjust too, and not everyone is cut out to manage their own work time at home. However, for many employees that learned to adapt, they are now reluctant to return to their brick and mortar offices and want to continue working from home.
How business operations have changed
Resilient businesses have pressed forward with a little innovation and initiative. Just as companies have adapted in managing their human workforce, how products and services are delivered is changing too.
Many businesses are turning to e-commerce to sell products and services, and will benefit from these online avenues well after the pandemic. Restaurants are offering delivery, takeout and curbside pickup—again, new channels of business that can continue into the future. Retail establishments pivoted to curbside pick-up too. BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) soared 500% during the pandemic. Online grocery shopping, which was seeing sluggish adoption before COVID-19, is now one the biggest areas of retail growth.
Many consumers are learning the ease and convenience of shopping online and BOPIS, and will continue post pandemic. People delivering services have become adept at communicating with clients digitally through video conferences and other software solutions.
Companies are filling in their reduced workforce with contingent workers—independent contractors to fulfill certain essential tasks.
New ways of doing business post pandemic
Expanded data collection. Even before the pandemic, employee monitoring tools were on the rise. Expect this trend to increase, especially since companies have more remote workers. This can be as simple as a digital time clock, productivity software to track work and goals, or tracking software to monitor computer usage to see if people are actually working, browsing funny cat videos or surfing social media. Companies are cautioned to be responsible in the use of employee information and analytics when using tracking software, and be transparent with employees about the use of such tools.
Virtual meetings and software solutions. Though we can expect in-person conferences to return post-pandemic, video conferences will grow. In part, video and web conferencing was already on the rise, COVID-19 just gave it a big boost. Technology allows companies to still have face to face meetings, but save on the costs of in-person gatherings and business travel costs. With a wider user base, developers are designing new features in hopes of continuing this growth trend.
Employee flexibility. Workers that say ‘that’s not my job’ will have a tough time. Staff that are adaptable and able to mentally cope with the constant change and new requests being asked of them will rise to the top. While employees are asked to take on new responsibilities, it is also an opportunity to learn new skills.
Post pandemic, companies will be rebuilding their workforce less on roles and job titles and more on the essential tasks that need to be done. Cross training and encouraging employees to develop crucial new skills will help companies be more competitive and open up career development opportunities for employees.
With budgets severely hampered, companies will continue to supplement task-oriented business needs with contract labor, further expanding the gig economy.
Focus on well-being. People have experienced personal hardships during COVID-19, whether it be health issues for themselves or a household member, impact to financial security or increased stress. Also, with continued social distancing and remote work, employees can feel isolated. All of these examples can spill over into work life and job performance.
Many companies are playing an expanded role in their employees well-being going forward. This could include enhanced communication and check-ins, adjusted sick leave policies, financial assistance, flex hours and child care provisions. Having a good health and safety policy in place will help make employees feel safe about returning to work post pandemic.
How employees choose workplaces. During the pandemic, some companies have pushed employees to work in conditions that are high risk with little support — treating front line employees as workers first and people second (we’re looking at you Jeff Bezos). Employees and prospective candidates will judge organizations by the way in which they treated employees during the pandemic. Companies should balance the decisions made today to resolve immediate concerns during the pandemic with the long-term impact on the employment brand.
What is the new normal for businesses post-pandemic?
Employers will have to be very open minded and tech savvy, and employees will have to be very flexible. Ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly be felt by businesses for years.
COVID-19 has devastated some companies, never to return. Others have adopted lean practices, focused on employee wellness and just appreciate one another more.
Overall, businesses that get onboard with positive post-pandemic planning will be the most resilient.