Managing virtual workers can be a challenging and stress-inducing task. Learn what to expect from a post-pandemic workplace and utilize a hybrid approach.
Across the world, businesses are beginning the slow process of reopening. Amidst this move toward the “next normal,” significant challenges are being presented. Organizational concerns now must balance employee health and wellness while also figuring out how to get their business back to operational mode. Truly, if organizations want to stay competitive in the current landscape, they’ll need to establish new rules and protocols, become more forward thinking, and reevaluate their current approach to business in order to embrace the new workplace dynamic.
The Next Normal
As countries slowly open up, many companies are planning on implementing a hybrid virtual model that combines remote and on-site working. According to McKinsey, this model grants users increased productivity for individuals and small teams, greater access to talent, more individual flexibility, lower costs, and overall, improved employee experiences.
Historically, hybrid virtual models haven’t been as successful as in-person office arrangements. Negative effects of working from home arise from the organizational norms that tie together culture and performance, such as ways of working and standards of behavior and interaction, which help generate social cohesion, build shared trust and create a common culture. To help remote working and virtual collaboration to be effective in the short term, organizations still need to hold onto these ideals.
There also is the risk of two organizational cultures emerging, which are dominated by in-person workers and managers who continue to benefit from the positive attributes of in-person collaboration and co-location. On the other side of the spectrum, culture and social cohesion for the virtual workforce deteriorate. When this occurs, remote workers may feel disenfranchised, unhappy, and isolated. What gets lost is the sense of belonging, shared identity, and a common purpose that typically inspires us to do our best work. Organizational performance then follows suit.
As we reimagine the post-pandemic organization, today is the day to pay careful attention to the effect of your choices on organizational norms and culture by focusing on the ties that keep your people together. Analyze how you lead and further, your managers’ leadership styles. You have the opportunity to create the hybrid virtual model that is best for your company. What will follow will be a new shared culture for all your employees that provides social cohesion, stability, belonging, and identity, whether your employees are working in-person, remotely, or some combination of the two.
Future Proof Your Business
According to Forbes, there are six ways to future proof your business for a post-pandemic workplace:
1) Make flexibility a core benefit:
Even pre-pandemic, the workplace was already shifting toward remote work as a way of life. Forbes points out that a recent Gartner CFO survey found that, due to financial benefits, 74 percent of companies plan on keeping at least 5 percent of their formerly on-site employees in remote work positions following the pandemic. As this trend accelerates, employers will need to develop more understanding and flexibility when considering their workers’ needs and varying situations. For instance, while businesses are working toward reopening, many schools and daycares remain closed, putting parents in a precarious position. Now, parents will need to readjust their in-office schedule so they can attend to their personal responsibilities. While many schools plan on remaining closed, this trend has also found its way into business, with many employers taking their businesses online and transitioning their in-office workers to permanent remote employees. The option to work from home – a nice-to-have before the pandemic – now has become a must-have.
2) Upgrading equipment and investing in technology:
Thanks to the acceleration of the digital revolution post-pandemic, many businesses have discovered gaps in their daily operations. Unfortunately, a significant chunk of now-remote businesses were not prepared to keep operating due to outdated systems and faulty technology. In no other case was this gap as clear as the months during which the U.S. federal government struggled to process millions of Americans who applied for unemployment. Here, state labor departments struggled to keep up with claims while their technology slowed the process significantly. After the pandemic, employers and government will be forced to revisit their current setup and future proof their infrastructure to prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.
3) Prioritize employee health and wellness:
If there are any positive aspects to the COVID-19 situation, it is the fact that the pandemic has brought more awareness to mental health issues, which were a problem for many pre-COVID-19. Employees have become more enlightened on the topic of mental health and are putting preventative measures in place in a proactive approach. Interestingly, studies by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) showed that one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year; that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year; and that depression is estimated to cause potentially 200 million lost workdays each year, which costs employers between $17 to 44 billion annually. Even more troubling, the World Health Organization estimated that U.S. businesses lost around $300 billion annually due to high stress and a lack of productivity, with stress undoubtedly increasing due to the pandemic. This development, in turn, could cost employers more. Prior to COVID-19, to many employers, wellness was about extending a gym membership, if that. Now we know that wellness is keeping employees healthy beyond the pandemic. One way to do this is to establish mental health check-ins, establishing safety measures, and providing resources. When employees do eventually return to the workplace, one of the biggest changes they will notice is the extra attention paid to sanitation and hygiene. Gone are the days of packing up your things and leaving – now, employees will be expected to wipe down their stations, both at the start of the day and at its end. It certainly will be a new world to which employees must adjust.
4) Increased communication:
Forbes reports that one of the biggest complaints from employees at the pandemic’s start was how hands-off leadership was when it came to keeping them in the loop. Though these times are unprecedented, leadership needs to keep employees engaged via consistent communication, even when the message is that they’re working on a solution. Unfortunately, employers who laid off or furloughed their employees didn’t provide resources, next steps, or any type of assistance to help them navigate the challenge of unemployment. When this occurred, employers at times were exposed for how they treated employees and overall handled the crisis. As a result, many now must reconstruct their brand in order to retain current employees while also attracting new talent.
5) Invest in management development:
Managers will be faced with many new challenges when employees return to work. First and foremost, managers will need to address and abide by respectful boundaries and promote healthy habits. If they haven’t already, managers will need to learn skills such as: keeping employees engaged and motivated, conflict resolution, coaching and developing, crisis management, effective communication, human and interpersonal skills, and remaining emotionally stable. As a result, leadership training and coaching will be even more valuable to managers as they work their way through a post-COVID-19 workplace. One of the ways to future proof your business is to extend professional coaching and leadership development beyond the executive level. Especially in times of COVID-19, this type or training is important as everything is a bit uncertain right now.
6) Create a sustainable corporate culture:
It is the responsibility of leaders to reshape and influence the workplace culture to create a viable and sustainable one. Before the pandemic, remote workers were isolated while workplace cultural initiatives were situated around in-office workers. This attitude has proven to be detrimental to companies who, in order to keep their workplace operating, had to transition from in-office to remote work. Now, the future of the workplace is molded around what will work moving forward rather than relying on traditional methods. And in order to create a sustainable company culture, employees will need to both anticipate and listen to worker’s needs, be it remote or in-office.
Stefanini Enables Working-From-Home
Managing virtual workers can be a challenging and stress-inducing task, with many companies unprepared to support their suddenly-remote staffs. That’s why Stefanini is offering the resources necessary to stay productive and keep workers connected during these unprecedented times. If your business is struggling with working virtually, let us introduce you to our [email protected] Suite, a comprehensive package stuffed with the technological tools necessary to best support workers.
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