The coronavirus pandemic has upended our lives in almost every conceivable way - from how we shop, socialize and seek medical help, to how we approach education and parenting. For many, one of the biggest adjustments has come in the form of how we work.
According to an April survey from Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), 83% of employers have adjusted their business practices in light of the pandemic. Below are some of the biggest changes taking place in the world of work right now.
While some of these changes may disappear once the pandemic subsides, many are likely to stick around permanently or evolve to meet the business world’s new normal.
Flexibility is the new 9-to-5
Long before coronavirus, employers were shifting toward giving employees more flexibility over when and where they worked; however, the pandemic accelerated the trend (if mostly out of necessity). As a result of this shift, many employers are realizing that giving employees more ownership of where and when they work is not only manageable, but may even increase productivity.
Of course, not everyone can do their jobs remotely, and those who do right now may feel they miss going into the office, interacting with their coworkers and having a clear boundary between work and home. All things considered, the physical office is not going anywhere, but working from home will become more commonplace, and flexibility will become the new norm.
Virtual Is the new in-person
As companies have had to shift to accommodate remote work conditions, they have also had to embrace technology that enables them to communicate and collaborate virtually. In addition to regular business meetings, corporate learning and development programs, once consisting of in-person workshops, conferences and seminars, have now gone almost completely virtual.
While the in-person and on-site events are likely to resume once conditions allow, they will likely be less frequent and on a much smaller scale than before. As collaboration and training software grows more sophisticated, allowing companies to save money on travel, event space and building rental while enabling more flexible working conditions, companies will continue to rely on this technology as a key (and cost-effective) employee engagement resource.
Disaster planning gets a makeover
Sure, most companies have disaster plans in place, but how many account for dealing with a global pandemic? According to the same SHRM survey, only two thirds of employers had an emergency preparedness plan prior to the pandemic.
Of those, almost half of those plans didn’t account for communicable diseases. Moving forward, companies will not only have to re-evaluate their current strategies for dealing with a disaster (which may also entail redefining what a “disaster” is), but ensure they have the resources and capabilities to implement it quickly and strategically.
Employers will need to reconsider the benefits they offer post-COVID in order to align with new budgetary constraints, a changing workforce dynamic and different employee needs.
According to an April survey by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, 53 percent of employers have already started providing special emotional and mental health programs for their workforces due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Other companies are offering financial assistance to help ease money-related anxieties and finding ways to accommodate workers struggling to balance work and family life.
As the pandemic is likely to have a far-reaching impact - even after it is over - employers are likely to place more emphasis on benefits that support mental health, work-life balance (such as more flexible schedules, as mentioned about) and financial wellness.
Business becomes more personal
In recent years, soft skills were becoming more common as a valued leadership trait. As the coronavirus spread, and as fear and anxiety around the pandemic infiltrated organizations at every level, these skills became not just nice-to-haves, but critical.
Leaders saw the need to communicate more often, with more transparency and with empathy, in effort to ease employees’ anxieties and offer reassurance that “we’re all in this together” despite the uncertainty ahead. Once the worst of the pandemic is over, this practice will likely continue as companies see the positive impact it has on morale, productivity and, in effect, the bottom line.
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