Why should we design a digital workplace now?
A digital workplace is necessary to ensure that all employees thrive when they work remotely.
Research from the United Nations International Labor Organization found that remote working can leave employees more susceptible to working longer hours when they work remotely. Therefore, a higher chance of burnout and more stress.
In fact, many workers actually rely on the office for structure and connectivity. And it is central to achieving a balance between their personal and professional lives.
Therefore, without the in-office trips and interactions, we have to design a (digital) workplace to mimic those structures and connections.
Setting up new types of offices & a long-term remote work strategy.
In order to cope with a primarily remote workforce (who are keen to continue working from home), we need to better engage with employees.
From setting up a long-term work-from-home strategy, we will need to adapt the way the workforce is managed and looked after.
Let’s think about what are likely to be seen in post-pandemic workplaces.
#1. The masks are maintained in the offices and we will still be (1.5m) apart.
Many companies will require employees to wear masks at all times. Leaving the redesigning of spaces an imperative to ensure physical distancing in congested areas (such as pantries).
As a result, even after the reopening, attitudes toward offices will probably continue to evolve.
Some forward-thinkers are making apps to help make a contactless office a reality.
Such as using near-field communication instead of keycards to give employees access to a building or lift system via their smartphone. Or to buy food and drink from cash-free workplace canteens.
JLL, the real estate services firm estimates that 5 – 10% of companies are utilising these workplace apps successfully.
In the short-term, it seems like many of us will remain working from home even after government orders are lifted. At a minimum, smaller groups will be going into the office on alternate days and shifts that avoid rush-hour peaks.
This leads us to the next point.
#2. New workflows and digital tools are honed, to manage a staggered and dispersed workforce.
COVID-19 has forced a radical shift in working habits and will continue to change the way we work, together or not.
During the lockdowns, most organisations have simply ensured that most important processes could be carried on remotely, imitating what had been done before the pandemic.
This has worked well for some organisations, but not for others.
This is certainly a major challenge for organizations that are struggling to connect work to the people who are now working remotely and scattered across homes.
Especially in between lay-offs, it is only natural for one to lose count of who is still in the company, who is available to complete a particular task, or who is skilled enough to execute the project.
This could be attributed to outdated employee information, lack of an efficient process to staff projects, or a lack of network outside the core members of your team who you work closely with.
So, the goal here is to adopt technologies that engage the employees, and best leverage their potential.
This tool needs to offer the work that employees have the skills, availability, and interests to do, wherever they may be located.
It is important NOT to underutilise their skills. In fact, it is one-of-five silent killers of employee engagement.
The ideal tool will be adding value by connecting the best ‘hidden’ talent to the right work, and:
- Build visibility on the entire workforce
- Distribute tasks and projects to suited internal employees
- Allow people to work undisrupted while being geographically-dispersed
- Boosting overall productivity.
Only with more enhanced technological capabilities such as clear and concise platforms for workflow management, talent discovery, companies can quickly adapt to this new environment.
#3. Communities need to be supported and united online.
With more companies now getting on board with remote working, people are increasingly dispersed over multiple locations and working more in isolation.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
It has been difficult for extroverts like us at the Xrosswork team, who can’t see colleagues and friends. But it’s equally hard for introverts. You may assume that introverted people would love lockdown and work from home. Which they probably did in the first few months. But they are probably missing the people, the opportunity to connect, and having more profound conversations.
It’s a challenge to make people feel part of the team even when they’re not in the office.
So, it IS equally important to support people to make connections, and empowering them to work how they want digitally. AND, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to managing workplaces, especially given the velocity of recent changes.
TLDR: The value of a flexible approach cannot be underestimated throughout this period.
For the Leaders: Be proactive. Be flexible. Design digital workplaces and workflows. Start exploring the new ways of working.
As we move past the initial phase of COVID-19, it is important for firms to be devising answers to the question of why employees go to an office, how often, and for how long. Alongside the design process of coming up with a functional digital workplace, and other workflows for prolonged remote working modes.
It’s up to leaders and managers like us, to explore what the new world of work could look like. We need to learn and continuously adapt to a digital workplace, culture, and way of working.
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