By Thomas Giles and TG Consultancy
In a post-pandemic world, business leaders must strive to align their practices with the new ‘normal’. But what does ‘business as usual’ look like now? Thomas Giles, founder of global HR consultancy TG Consultancy, examines how the workplace will change as we adjust to life after COVID-19, and explores how businesses can adapt to ensure they attract and retain the best talent.
In March 2020, businesses of all sizes were forced to rapidly respond to the emerging coronavirus crisis. Organizations were forced to uproot their office-based employees and move operations to remote working. One year on, with vaccination rollouts offering some light at the end of the tunnel, there is a clear divide concerning how organizations will use office space moving forward.
With some businesses still investing in offices, and others opting to ditch them entirely, for most of us remote working will remain a part of our working lives in some shape or form indefinitely.
In recent years, it has become increasingly common for employees to expect employers to facilitate a better work-life balance. Unfortunately, the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and home even further, and what business leaders need to think about now is how to achieve this balance with teams working remotely.
On the other hand, one positive to come from this shift towards working from home is an end to the myth that remote working and online training are impractical or ineffective. In fact, digital learning has now become an essential tool in a blended working environment.
The pandemic also placed a premium on optimism, agility, flexibility, and patience. Effective leaders in recent months have been accepting and tolerant of home life distractions. These individuals have also been considerate and accommodating towards their team members.
But how can companies and individuals better prepare for working in a post-pandemic world? What skills will leaders need to sustain this technology-driven remote working model on a permanent basis? Some skills closely resemble those that were important pre-pandemic, with slight modifications based on the situation. For example, communication, empathy, fostering trust and listening to understand are even more important when managing teams remotely against the background of a global crisis.
Moving forward, it is likely that leaders will have to work twice as hard to communicate with teams effectively. Yet companies that foster these skills are more likely to reap the benefits of improved performance.
Engaging the next generation
Before the pandemic forced the transition to remote working, younger generations were calling on employers to make commitments to mental health, wellbeing and sustainability. This agile group are also ambitious, tech-savvy, creative-problem solvers. They are highly motivated by development and learning opportunities when choosing employers.
Retaining younger employees within a business in a post-pandemic world requires leaders to upskill them in the early stages of their career. This is also crucial for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. This generation possesses a skill set that is uniquely suited to the new way of hybrid working; these individuals will only become more valuable as technology continues to transform industries.
Without question, technology enabled the transition to working from home. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have transformed how meetings and corporate events are held. This trend is likely to continue indefinitely, as collaborative and operational technology evolves even further.
As part of this ongoing digital revolution, activities previously performed by individuals will increasingly be taken over by automation. Artificial intelligence has just begun impacting the workplace, and in the coming years we will more than likely see certain professions and roles become obsolete as a result. Still, like any ‘revolution’ in business, this will also create new roles and opportunities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made any prognosis of the future working landscape almost impossible. Nonetheless, I predict businesses should look to their core values and strategy, as well as their employees’ preferences and work styles. Careful planning, clear communications and continuous consultation with employees will always be critical to navigating this next step.