Now that the world has slowly started to adjust to the “new normal”, employers are finally starting to map out what the working world will look like post-COVID-19.
There are several workforce trends that companies had slowly and reluctantly begun to adopt before the COVID-19 pandemic, that have accelerated over the past year. As vaccines begin to roll out around the world, and the population begins to look forward to the eventual end of social-distancing, it is important for employers to prepare for the coming workforce shifts that will take place over the next year, and in the far-future as a result of the pandemic.
Flexible Workforce Models
Research suggests that more than 80 percent of company leaders will allow remote work after the pandemic. More recently, with new COVID-19 outbreaks and variants, more and more businesses are putting their efforts to return to a “normal” office environment on pause. The general consensus across various industries in the U.S. is that, remote work in one form or another is here to stay for quite some time. Should current vaccination plans succeed, companies can then start to plan for some degree of normality and for partial workforces to return to offices.
Organizations will most likely move toward a hybrid model that requires employees to work from a shared office for a part of the week. 2020 saw workers prove that they can be productive whilst working from home, and many employees are now reluctant to return to a “normal” working lifestyle which requires that they be in an office for 40+ hours per week. In fact, research shows that as much as 35% of employees say that they would turn down a job offer that didn’t allow the possibility to work from home. The good news is that adopting a more flexible model has benefits for both the employer and the employee, who now have the opportunity to create a better balance that prioritizes results over hours worked. Furthermore, flexible work environments provide organisations with the opportunity to widen their talent pools and look outside of their immediate geographic locations for top talent.
Use Data to Adapt
Employers across the world seem to have rising concerns about moving to a virtual workforce model. Amongst these concerns are the effect that a virtual workforce will have on corporate culture , social justice movements and mental health. It is imperative that employers find creative and engaging ways to connect with their employees remotely in order to maintain strong and effective cultures within this new dynamic.
As employees begin to (partially) return to the office, it becomes possible to begin collecting data that reveals information about how teams are feeling, what works for them and what seems to be missing. Crafting employee wellness initiatives and tailoring a working environment that promotes employee health is of the utmost importance, and to do so, employers must first know and understand what employees are experiencing. Data collection is a critical starting point to bringing about positive and effective change within any workforce. Gathering and analysing data can help management teams highlight where current imbalances exist and form strategies to troubleshoot and avoid areas of shortfall. Data should be used to ensure that leadership teams do not overlook the current reality of their teams.
A Focus on Emotional Maturity
Another workforce trend that seems to have accelerated in popularity due to the Pandemic is an increased focus on the emotional quotient (EQ), or emotional maturity of employees. Upskilling employees’ technical skills is seen as essential by most modern organisations; but the idea of training workers in EQ still seems to be unadopted by many employers. Successful companies in 2021 are investing in an increased need for employees that have a high EQ, who can ensure that when in-person communication remains limited, teams can still effectively solve problems, deescalate conflict, and collaborate.
Make Use of Employer Branding
Finally, because of these many converging trends, employer branding has never been more important. In 2021, employees want companies to demonstrate that they are actively making their work safer, more representative of their needs, and more enjoyable for the employee. With increased brand transparency, any employee can be an ambassador of their organization simply by sharing their attitudes or opinions, both internally and externally of the organization. Employees advocating for their organizations helps companies build authentic external reputations that attract top-talent for years to come.
While the new world of work presents unique challenges to employers and employees, it also presents new opportunities to advance workforces and build effective channels of communication that benefit both parties. Although the past year has accelerated the adoption of numerous workplace trends, these are trends that predicated the pandemic and have been a “long time coming”. Employers should anticipate a better work/life balance, celebrated individuality, and an emphasis on emotional maturity will continue to grow as workforce trends well beyond the pandemic; and will form a large part of working life for years to come.