Here are five things organizations should be aware of as they continue to adjust their working arrangements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already transformed the way we work and innovate. Remote work is on the rise across the United States, and companies operating in a wide variety of industries are evolving their business models to accommodate shifting demands.
While adjusting to this new work environment is an ongoing challenge, adapting to trends such as organization-wide remote work can provide long-term benefits. According to the latest Gallup survey on the state of the American workplace, about 43 percent of U.S. employees were already working remotely at least part of the time before the pandemic, and 85 percent of businesses say that flexible remote work policies have made their business more productive.
Ultimately, how well we adapt to and thrive in our new working environments will depend on how we handle boundary-setting, self-care, and changing communication needs. As companies prepare for long-term changes to office life, it will be important to keep the following things in mind:
1. Digital Collaboration Will Be Key
As remote work becomes a necessity, virtual collaboration will become a key component of most businesses. Companies will need to ensure they invest in the right digital tools, from workflow and video conferencing software to company-provided laptops and private networks for their employees. Currently, 36 percent of remote workers use a cloud-based management tool while only 13 percent use collaboration software.
The COVID-19 pandemic is already accelerating digitization across industries, and as digital communication becomes more prevalent, the winners will be companies that innovate to improve their facilities and/or new technologies that enable previously in-person work to be done remotely.
For many industries, boosting information security for remote work will become a top priority in the months to come. Engineers, designers, and producers that typically operate on secure company networks will need ways to work remotely without sacrificing security or exposing their company to costly data breaches.
2. Work Relationships Will Become More Important, Not Less Important
Strong relationships between colleagues and with organizational leadership will become more important as working from home becomes the norm. As many companies become increasingly economically vulnerable, trust in leadership will be paramount — as plans are postponed and new changes and needs arise, employees can quickly lose confidence in an unclear organizational vision.
Leadership will need to find ways to maintain trust, whether through virtual events, video check-in meetings, or regular email updates. Creating touchpoints between colleagues and across teams — and across hierarchies — can make a significant difference in employee morale. Finding new ways to build trust within and across teams will also help maintain productivity, especially when in-person meetings will carry potential health risks even after offices reopen.
3. Professionals Will Adapt to At-Home Work Environments in Different Ways
The work-from-home environment differs from an office environment because it introduces a new set of complicating factors. With schools and camps closed, professionals are being forced to juggle work alongside family responsibilities. As such, in addition to interactions with colleagues, the “office” ecosystem will now include interruptions from family, children, and even pets. Organizations will have to adapt to accommodate different daily routines and work rhythms.
Additionally, setting home and office boundaries will become increasingly difficult — but no less necessary. Companies that leverage the tools at their disposal to work with instead of against employees’ diverse at-home arrangements will likely see greater employee satisfaction and increased productivity.
4. Health Management and Self-Care Will Become Top Priorities
For companies and employees alike, managing health risks will continue to be a top priority as the economy slowly reopens and some non-essential workers are permitted to return to the office.
Both remote and in-office employees will need to find new ways to practice self-care as gyms and clubs continue to implement social distancing measures. At-home activities that support their mental and physical health will continue to be in high demand and will help employees stay effective in their professional roles. As the health and wellness industry evolves to keep up with changing demands, offices will likely invest in policies, technologies, and practices that support employee health and minimize risks.
5. Continuous Adjustments to Employees’ Behavioral Shifts Will Become Normal
Understanding ongoing shifts in employees’ needs and behaviors will be a key part of keeping morale high while staying productive as work environments continue to transform. Government policies and economic realities will continue to shift as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, and paying close attention to changes in professional and social behavior will become a key priority for organizations looking to stay resilient.
A Helping Hand in Adjusting to the New Normal
At SEI, we have worked through times of crisis before, and we have the experience and expertise to help organizations navigate the constantly shifting business landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please reach out to learn more about the ways we can help your organization in these challenging times. We will get through this together, and wish all our clients and professional associates continued good health.
Learn more about how SEI is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.