The pandemic forever altered the entire fabric of today’s working environment and continues to keep businesses on their toes. One minute, businesses are looking forward to the possibility of the long-awaited “return to the office” and the next, they are facing the reinstatement of rules and mandates, impeding the process. Expecting employees and management to simply resume business as usual would be naïve and even obstructive to the organization’s success moving forward.
Over the past year, several trends have emerged, which will help influence our new corporate culture and how we work in the future:
The Merging of Our Personal and Professional Lives
The first is an undeniable shift in the social contract between employer and employee. Prior to COVID-19, our professional and personal identities were kept separate. Today, after more than a year of video calls from our home offices, with children and pets making unexpected guest appearances, our professional and personal identities have become inextricably intertwined. This is unlikely to change even as people head back into the office. For instance, we will see important issues — such as diversity and support for the LGBTQ, black, and minority ethnic communities — progressively introduced into company discussions. In fact, there is now an expectation of commentary, adjustment, and engagement by company leadership on such issues that would have previously been perceived as a third rail and never been addressed.
The Future Is Hybrid
Based on the past year, and the relative success of employees working from home, we will likely see the adoption of a decentralized workforce and a hybrid working environment. This does not necessarily entail a 3:2 work from home split or the like. Rather, it is the introduction of greater flexibility, with working practices tailored according to different roles.
For example, sales development representatives and newly graduated recruits stand to gain a lot more from direct management supervision, as well as the energy and camaraderie fostered from being around their peers. This contrasts with roles, such as those in engineering and product development. While it is beneficial to gather the team in-person for creative development, this only makes up a fraction of their job responsibilities.
Bridging the Talent Gap
Finally, it is crucial that we leverage the lessons drawn from our experience this past year. Among them is our newly developed skill to work with remote workforces, as well as locate and develop new talent. It is a responsibility not just as job creators, but also for the benefit of the company/industry as a whole. We need to commit to producing a pipeline of Tier 1 employees to meet the talent shortage within the technology industry.
To summarize, here are four ways that businesses should embrace the new normal to prosper on the other side:
- Recognize that the separation between work and home life is history. Our professional and personal identities have become inextricably intertwined, and leaders need to come to terms with this reality.
- Create a hybrid workplace. We no longer need to adopt either extreme. A hybrid model is ideal, offering the flexibility to meet the needs of employees and the requirements of their respective roles, without compromising on business operations.
- Engage in societal issues. Companies need to take a stand on movements that are relevant in people’s everyday lives and their communities.
- Find your talent in new places. Accepting remote work as a viable option opens up opportunities to find the right talent, no matter where they live. Companies need to invest in underserved communities.
The pandemic upended the traditional workplace forever. As we begin to reopen, it is important to understand and embrace these changes. Leaders must be open to cultivating an evolved company culture, creating new policies that ensure equality and productivity. Companies that do so will thrive and build an inspired, productive, and competitive workplace for the future.