For the first time in over a year, there’s hope (or at least cautious optimism) that the pandemic will finally recede into the background. However, given growing global concerns over COVID mutations, like the highly contagious Delta variant, forward-thinking businesses are weighing their options on what the future work environment will look like this year. The savviest companies are already taking steps to future-proof their workforce.With so many factors at play—including changing employee sentiment towards office life—it’s easy to say that one size won’t fit all when it comes to the future of work.
Are employees ready to go back to the office?
According to the US Labor Department, 4 million people quit their jobs in April 2021, many of them searching for better opportunities. “The Great Resignation,” as some are calling this mass exodus, is a clear sign that the pandemic has collectively shifted people’s priorities and that the workforce will need to change because of it.
But why are they leaving? In a previous post where we discussed the four trends shaping the future of work, we found that people are re-evaluating what work-life balance means to them. From prioritizing mental health to spending more time with family, people found time for life outside of work, and there seems to be no sign of going back.
Today, many employees crave the flexibility they experienced in 2020, and enterprises of all sizes are struggling to find ways to accommodate.
Enterprises facing challenges with a return to work
This industry seems the easiest to predict will be highly remote. However, not all companies agree. At Apple, employees have already expressed concern over being asked to work in the office three days a week. While it’s less restrictive than the company’s previous policy, it’s still more conservative than other tech giants.
Both Facebook and Twitter are allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, even after the pandemic ends. Google, who announced a mass return to office three days a week in early 2021, has since announced a more flexible model. Google employees will work remotely through September. Afterward, they’ll be able to choose from working at their pre-pandemic office, another Google office, or from anywhere if their role allows it.
Adobe, who predicts a hybrid workplace model in the future, will remain primarily virtual with the opportunity for physical gatherings as needed. The company is using what they call a “flexible, digital-first mindset.”
Most big banking names on Wall Street agree, employees must return to the office vaccinated this fall.
Goldman Sachs required most employees to return to the office and inform the bank of their vaccination status in June, with exceptions lasting until September 30th. JPMorgan Chase, which tried (and failed) to get employees onsite for traders in the Fall of 2020, is using an internal portal to keep records of vaccinated employees for their return to the office this year. Morgan Stanley, whose CEO has already shared strong sentiments regarding onsite work, also requires vaccination statuses; unvaccinated employees must work from home, but they have until September to return to the office.
However, some rivals are using this complex industry stance to poach top dealmakers from the competition. For example, Citigroup (whose offices are 3 minutes from Goldman Sachs) will adopt a hybrid work model.
As you know, retail stores like Walmart and Target have remained open and in-store employees have been onsite for most of the pandemic. However, their headquarters are a different story. Walmart, who surveyed its staff and received concerns over health and safety, is opening 50% of its offices for optional onsite work. They have also adopted safety precautions and social distancing methods at the office.
Target is downsizing its Minneapolis headquarters and moving to a hybrid work model with time spent remotely and onsite. The giant retailer, who had originally planned a return to office in Summer 2021, will now open its headquarters in the Fall.
3 ways tech is helping businesses adapt
Work from home was not a natural evolution of the workforce; it came as a result of government lockdowns and mandates. Many businesses had to accelerate their digital transformation efforts in order to survive. Now, technology is at the heart of what follows for enterprises and their staff: formalizing new processes.
We’ve already discussed how RPA and intelligent automation can help companies adapt to the new normal. Here are three other ways:
In uncertain times like these, the importance of HR’s role cannot be understated. Tasked with the challenge of addressing changes in employee experience, many human resources professionals are leaning on data to provide the answers. Worker data on skills, preferences, sentiment, and performance will be invaluable to help improve employee engagement and productivity.
Touchless office technology
Businesses keen on onsite work are also using technology to return to the office safely. From touchless entry to mobile conference booking to redesigning the floorspace, businesses can now use technology to reconfigure the office and even predict operational costs. We’ll also see more autonomous cleaning solutions, voice-enabled tech, and a higher emphasis on cybersecurity.
As more businesses adopt flexible or hybrid models, democratization of communication continues to be essential in the workplace. According to a report by Deloitte, digital collaboration tools are linked with a 20% increase in employee satisfaction, which means workers want to interact with each other — just in a different way. Businesses continue to benefit from video conferencing platforms, but we can also expect a rise in custom communications ecosystems.
Office life has changed forever. Are you prepared?
COVID-19 changed the idea that employees must be at the office to be productive. The future of work is hybrid, and businesses bold enough to be at the forefront of that change will reap the rewards. Digital transformation isn’t just a technological evolution, it’s also an organizational one.
At 10Pearls, we can help your business create an employee experience that allows for a more flexible and engaging digital workplace. From leveraging automation to improve productivity to creating software that allows for better collaboration, we can build the future of work together. Talk to us about your return to office plans.