2020: we're living through a change in history that will be noted for evolving how our so called hard-coded realities have shifted almost over night. The current pandemic we find ourselves in has brought about so many unprecedented changes in all aspects of both our personal and professional lives. Nothing could have prepared us for the drastic and swift changes which have forced us into a new sense of normality and unfamiliarity. No amount of forward thinking or contingency planning could have predicted what was over the horizon and fully equipped businesses to remain unaffected without feeling the hit for both itself and its employees.
Organisations have had to act fast in order to survive. Technologies are being brought to the forefront as a means of survival and communication. Almost instantly the element of direct human interaction diminished. Creativity and agility have now, more than ever before, stood the test of time. And of course, there are the unique demands of a multi-generational workforce who may or may not be as adaptive to change, adopting new online ways of working or digital solutions as a means of replacing face-to-face interaction.
When lockdown was enforced globally, country by country, going into an office space, working with colleagues, having face to face meetings and after work drinks all changed, suddenly. There's a big difference between wanting to work from home, and being forced to work from home. Pre-lockdown, working from home was a luxury. It offered a lot of flexibility and contributed to a work-life balance. Many organisations who adopted this way of working were seen to be modern, forward thinking and employee-centric, focusing on the needs of the employee. Fast forward to when there's very little choice to whether or not employees want to work from home or not (minus the exceptions of front line workers and essential functions). This leap into a new way of working created a lot of stress, anxiety and disillusion for many, where they weren't necessarily ready to entirely shift into a digital remote way of working. Working from home with children off school, partners at home and confined to 4 walls, so to speak, posed a lot of struggles and obvious distresses.
And of course, after time, the readjustment to working from home became the new norm. Employees felt safe, contained at home without the direct threat of being in close proximity to other team members. Routines and schedules adjusted, people found their rhythm and then restrictions changed again, and the angst and fear arose once again with the thought of going into a communal office space.
How have tech giants evolved?
Tech giant, Twitter, has leapfrogged forward and taken the bold decision to allow its employees to work from home forever according to its CEO, Jack Dorsey. “The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.” This is revolutionary in the business world. Think less office space, fewer overheads on office furniture, total flexible working, a more adaptable and responsive method of productivity. Forever is the key here. Imagine having the opportunity to work from a location which best suits you, your personal life, your school runs, your commutes? No more 9am-5pm.
So too with the world's largest social network, Facebook, extending the option of long term or permanent working from home, which could be viewed in direct opposition to Facebook's all under one roof approach, where there's everything on site from free food at cafeterias, snack stations, recreation areas, lounges and more, to keep employees engaged and steadily put. Furthermore, Zuckerberg estimated that up to half of the company's employees could be working from home within five to 10 years. He added that "[Facebook] will be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at this scale."
So, what can organisations learn?
1. Remote work is doable
COVID-19 has proven that remote working works. Not only are employees able to do more productively, they avoid frustrating commutes, they're able to do personal errands and their morale is generally boosted. They feel trusted and empowered to get the job done without someone more senior micromanaging every task at hand. The hesitation which organisations once felt towards this forward thinking way of work had to dissipate, due to government restrictions. So the big question remains, why did it have to take a global breakdown for companies to trust and allow remote working? Did being thrust into this telework way shift the corporate mindset into seeing its benefits?
2. Communication is key
What's become so evident is the fundamental need for open, transparent communication. Ensure there's crisis management and trouble shooting processes firmly in place. Look at all your communication touch points with your workforce: is it effective? Is it efficient and can it relay the necessary messages at the speed they need to be sent? Digitalisation is key here. Ensure all communication can be done in a digital capacity, from online conference tools, digital communication platforms, social forums and so on. This digitalisation also plays a key role in enabling agility and quick responding, especially to the unexpected.
3. Focus on the employee experience
In a nutshell - the employee experience refers to the sum total of everything an employee experiences with a particular organisation. Now more than ever, is a time for organisations to think through and invest correctly when it comes to its employees. Employees need reassurance and transparency. They crave compassion, empathy and understanding. They want to be empowered and trusted. So, there's an opportunity to forward plan for this next stage of working, to come up with strategies that work concurrently for the employer and employee alike. It needs to be a win-win solution where employees are put in the spotlight, not just in the shadow of the organisation. According to research by Jacob Morgan, The Employee Experience Advantage’s author, concurs that companies who invested heavily in their employee experience are included 11.5x more often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work and 28x more often listed among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.
4. Personal touch
It goes without saying that now more than ever before, employees may feel isolated and lonely working from home. With SMEs it may be easier to make direct contact with all employees to check in and see how things are, however this may not be the case for big corporates with thousands of staff. It's advisable that some kind of formal or informal employee recognition programme should be put in place to communicate with teams, highlight milestones and congratulate employees' achievements, especially as teams aren't face to face. Actions often speak volumes; there's a lot to be said about feeling acknowledged, recognised and ultimately valued.
5. Keep evolving
There are umpteen ways to keep evolving within businesses. Work with experts, expand contingency plans, redefine organisational goals, reevaluate supply chains and suppliers, keep up with technology and technological changes. Simulation and testing on a regular basis can help trouble shoot areas which may have fallen short due to the immediacy of this pandemic. Put stops in place which can help with further changes, be it planned or unplanned. Don't stand still, evolve, look for new ways of working and refining your services. The road to evolution is endless...
Xexec is an Employee Engagement Specialist who understands the changes and demands which this pandemic has put on companies. If you'd like to find out how to build an effective employee recognition strategy to engage your team, download our e-Book here.