A year after the first COVID-19 case was reported, it is obvious that the pandemic’s impact on the future of work – and workplaces – is here to stay. We can say that workspaces will never be the same again. Although some businesses were suspicious of remote working arrangements for years, all were forced to go remote owing to COVID and many discovered that productivity remained steady even with remote working. However, for some, it led to a diminished client experience. Many are now also required to constantly revise their systems to ensure that they are both democratic and effective.
For employees, some enjoyed this break from the regular commute and office attire, and a chance to better balance home and work life. On the other hand, many raised concerns about loneliness, Zoom exhaustion, and the inability to distinguish work and personal life because of this arrangement.
As a result, companies have begun to plan for a partial return to work after the pandemic. Offices have now become a place that encourages a mixed community, with some employees working from home and others coming in on a flexible schedule. However, this new hybrid culture would require a new set of rules.
Remote work requires more engagement
We are all aware that a good mindset and strong relationships are the key traits to open the doors for promotion in a workplace. With working remotely it has become even more important for employees to stay connected by attending virtual gatherings, maintaining a high level of enthusiasm and highlight professional accomplishments. With emails and zoom meetings being the only point of contact between the employees and the leaders, the engagement rate needs to be on radar. Employees will need to put in extra effort in a hybrid workspace to increase their virtual participation in order to have access to new opportunities.
Demand for skills
In 2021, with businesses getting back to normal, everyone’s focus is recruiting ideal workers and thus there is a need for competitive advantage in hiring. And with a hybrid workspace, the focus of recruiting requirements will move to a combination of technical and soft skills. It will become important for candidates to unlearn the pre-pandemic world's conventional ideas and upskill. In the post COVID world, the tech stack, soft skills, and cultural fit of candidates will become increasingly important. According to Aditi Parekh, a teacher at Harvard, fixing upskilling and hiring processes in one swoop is the need of the hour. Platforms providing cohort-based courses and providing industry-ready workforce at zero cost will play an important part in hiring strategies going forward.
Remote work makes cybersecurity vital
In 2021, as more businesses encourage a large portion of their employees to operate remotely, cybersecurity will become much more of a concern. The most pressing question would be how data is accessed and efficiently secured. Securing a remote workforce necessitates a new attitude and a new and renewed IT infrastructure. While several organizations have already made the transition towards a new system, the security debt that might have resulted from the shift needs to be processed.
COVID-19 has pushed organizations into an unprecedented and unplanned experiment in remote and hybrid work models. The challenges of these new models are real, but so are the opportunities like reduced real estate costs and supercharged productivity and engagement. Organizations that create a level playing field for all workers, regardless of their location, empower frontline leaders, and continue to make employee benefit their highest priority can holistically re-create their work model—not only structurally but in ways of working, workspaces, and culture—to win the future of work.
By Nishant Chandra, Co-founder, Newton School