How to Win the Post-pandemic Working World
Disruption is the mantra of the startup world. Entrepreneurs are built for situations where “normal” isn’t “normal” anymore. They innovate and imagine.
The COVID-19 pandemic created widespread disruption in virtually every aspect of our professional lives. The workplace as we knew it is forever changed. As companies plan for the months ahead, here are four considerations for post-pandemic success.
Hybrid Work is Here to Stay
Over the last year, companies have learned that for many jobs and individuals—likely more than expected—remote work works. There are other responsibilities and circumstances where telecommuting is okay but not great, and still, other roles are best accomplished in co-located space. Going forward, flexibility is critical.
Microsoft recently released a report on hybrid work, a “blended model where some employees return to the workplace, and others continue to work from home.” The study reports that 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue—and 65 percent of surveyed workers are craving more in-person time with their teams.
A gradual return to co-located work allows companies to explore and experiment deliberately with which activities are best accomplished in the office and can be accomplished remotely.
One approach to creating a hybrid workplace that is equitable is to break positions down into categories of tasks and then consider functions across the organization. Matching in-person activities with the stage of a project is another method. For example, white-boarding for a new project works when the team is together in person. People can work more independently on research and reporting and then come back together to become more collaborative. Successful companies will invite employee input and offer employees choices to provide options that allow employees to work together and apart.
Attracting and Retaining Talent in a Post-pandemic World
Pandemic conditions have complicated the hiring process for companies with positions to fill and for individuals seeking new jobs. Strategic companies are assessing their 12-to-18 month hiring and retention plans. Many talented people who lost their positions in the pandemic are looking for jobs. Others rode out the pandemic without changing jobs but are now open to outside opportunities, especially as telecommuting opens new possibilities. Connect with candidates you liked but who didn’t or couldn’t live where you are for family, financial or other reasons. Zoom is an efficient and effective interview tool.
Candidates want to know the working arrangements right up front. Hiring companies need to be prepared with specifics. What is the mix of onsite and remote for the role? How is the company maintaining health and safety? What equipment and tools are provided for remote work? Is scheduling flexible? Without the regular contact and camaraderie that builds day-to-day when employees are co-located, management practices and company culture must adapt to make new employees feel included and part of the team.
Talent retention also needs to be top of mind. There are valuable and restless employees who stayed in their roles because of the pandemic. With closed offices, some may feel less connected to their companies and their co-workers and less satisfied with their overall work situation overall.
Now is the time for a risk assessment of key talent and an intentional emphasis on team-building and retention. Are there retraining opportunities? Managers will benefit from guidance on ways to level mentoring and opportunities across workers in the office, at least some of the time and remote workers.
Digital Tools and Mitigating New Cybersecurity Risks
During the pandemic, remote work became an unplanned default. Now that we are beginning to gain some clarity about the next steps, companies can reassess the laptops, tablets, mobile devices, and software that employees use to do their jobs. Our ability to telecommute is made possible by technology. Two-thirds of the 800 senior executives that McKinsey surveyed last July said they were increasing investment in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) either somewhat or significantly.
The landscape of cybersecurity has changed; remote access introduces more risk. Companies need to expand endpoint protection from the office to where the virtual user is. Many of those endpoints are beyond corporate security controls. Cybersecurity becomes a risk to manage company-wide with a new mindset that engages more employees and deploys technology, procedures, and policy.
Policies to Support the New Work Environment
In a hybrid work environment, where employee health and safety concerns are likely to be more at the forefront than ever before, there will be changes to the policy. From the company position on vaccinations to rules about the personal use of computers by remote workers, businesses across the country are reworking guidelines and procedures. If ever there was a time to involve trusted experts, such as attorneys, human resource professionals, and IT and quality control experts, that time is now.
As vaccines become more widely available and the workplace adjusts, there isn’t a business or an industry that won’t be doing things differently than they did before.
Leaders and managers have a unique opportunity to think more like entrepreneurs to define new ways of working as the new normal evolves.