Return to work, employees will experience a new workplace

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By Akshay Sharma

Post-COVID, the perception of work has changed significantly. Organizations used to measure productivity in the form of physical hours spent in the office are now exploring methods to maintain business continuity digitally, without compromising with the productivity of their employees. Work from home (WFH) has become a widely accepted alternative, with global companies such as Google and Facebook giving flexibility to their employees for WFH until the end of 2020. Tata Consulting Group, which employs close to 4.5 lakh employees, recently declared that 75% of its workforce would permanently WFH by 2025. These recent decisions by several large organizations across the globe suggest that the future of work has already become ‘Phygital’, a combination of Physical and Digital factors.

Employees, as well as employers, need to understand, the long term impact of a ‘Phygital’ work culture on the business and the lives of the employees.

Below are six areas wherein employees will experience a significant change and ways in which employees can tackle these.

Focus: The most crucial aspect that has been affected by remote working is ‘Focus’. The recent shift to digital collaboration has opened up multiple parallel channels of communication as well as avenues that can take away an individual’s attention. Employees could be receiving messages over email, organization’s official communication tool, calls over Whatsapp, Skype and messages on other professional platforms. With the increase in these stimuli, several employees might face difficulty focusing on their core deliverables. To solve this issue, employees would need to practice good time management habits, such as utilizing digital calendars and can leverage digital productivity tools that can help reduce distractions such as RescueTime, Heyfocus, Flipd and Focus@will.

Learning: Based on research published by the World Economic Forum, learning agility and adaptability are among the desired behavioral traits for future leaders. Another study by the researchers at Columbia University found that an individual’s learning agility is their ability to respond to challenging situations. WFH ends up creating such a situation physically for employees who are working alone and challenges them to find solutions by themselves, before escalating or reaching out to their colleagues for help. WFH could, therefore, be a catalyst in driving individuals to become self-learners. The crisis could become an opportunity for organizations to identify future leaders and change agents. It is also an opportunity for employees to explore their hidden capabilities by taking the challenge positively.

Security: With the recent news flooded with increased cyber threats and crimes, organizations and employees must follow the best practices to ensure cybersecurity. To tackle the ever-increasing threats, companies need to create and enforce strict data management standards. Few such methods include using cross-platform Data Loss Prevention (DLP) systems, two-factor authentication for company accounts, using VPN solutions from reliable industry providers. Companies need to enforce advanced encryption standards for managing sensitive data such as payment information, personal data of customers, and regular audits. Most importantly, employers need to educate their employees regarding the latest cybersecurity threats with examples regularly, which can help spread awareness. Employees need to understand the seriousness of the issue and follow best practices such as maintaining strong password standards, avoiding any suspicious emails/websites, keeping all applications & anti-malware updated and making sure to run regular security scans on their systems. Organizations should ensure that the IT team has a breach response plan in case of a cybersecurity breach and should enforce quarterly internal or 3rd party cyber audits, to find possible vulnerabilities.

Work-life balance: Overworking is the other side of remote work that individuals have realized post-COVID. Although remote work comes with flexibility, it could happen at the cost of work-life balance. With almost no option to move out from home, employees might spend more time on their computers, essentially overworking. Organizations need to devise policies and practices that enable a balanced work regime that doesn’t encroach on personal space. Employees need to carefully chalk out habits and practice self-discipline in keeping work separated from personal life; otherwise, it could cause stress and fatigue.

Collaboration: Until COVID, it was easy to observe people and their productivity while working out of offices. But after the crisis, without the proper capability to track productivity, it is easy for any organization to incur productivity losses with WFH, in case of poor collaboration. Most organizations have been introduced to the idea of monitoring remote productivity, only recently. Many organizations have been using digital collaboration tools for years, and several companies have recently migrated their team collaboration processes to digital systems. Employees in organizations where these initiatives are new can expect to start using popular tools for remote collaboration and productivity measurement. Collaboration platforms such as Slack, Trello, Mural, Proofhub, Bitrix, ActivTrak, and similar tools can help improve productivity remotely.

Motivation: Working remotely affects the motivation levels of the employees. A research conducted by Harvard Business Review between 2010 and 2015, over 20,000 workers globally revealed that people working from home were less motivated than people working from the office. To counter such adverse effects of remote work on employee motivation, managers can include certain practices to energize the employees. Managers can encourage each team member to lead during the meetings to enhance individual participation. Managers can understand the key motivational factors and use these to motivate each of their team members. Other methods such as real-time online team quizzes or games, a weekly team get together, virtual team rewards can help stimulate the employees, as they feel they are valued. While working remotely, employees can quickly lose track of time. So one must inculcate good habits to balance the remote work needs. According to research, taking a walk in sunlight, taking short work breaks after regular intervals, exercising, and getting enough sleep can increase dopamine levels, which can positively impact an individual’s motivation.

WFH is here to stay, and it is high time that the employees and their employers understand the significance of each one of these areas, and devise solutions to leverage these for personal and organizational benefit.

(The author is the Co-founder, SCIKEY)


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