HomeTechAs companies roll out plans for the future of work, obstacles remain

As companies roll out plans for the future of work, obstacles remain

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Even as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19 surges and delayed uptake of vaccines, most businesses remain in the planning stages for office reopening.

During the more than 18 months of the pandemic, corporate plans to open their office doors have been repeatedly hampered, with most organizations pushing their planned reopening dates, many until next year. Despite the setbacks, most companies are slowly realizing that a hybrid work environment (some employed at the office, others at home) will become a permanent reality.

But some companies are refusing to budge, insisting on returning to the pre-COVID-19 workplace. For example, Hearst’s publishing division, which runs newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and magazines like Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, is demanding a return to office. In response, workers last week filed a charge for unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.

While some corporate leaders seem reluctant to evolve their work model for fear it will put the business at risk, the new data shows that reverting to old ways is riskier than reinventing office culture, according to research firm Gartner. .

With an abundance of job openings and a shortage of workforce, most organizations are simply not in a position to make such demands, according to researchers who say workers are now more focused than ever on improving their balance between work and work. life.

Only about 15% of employees want to work full time in an office environment, according to Gartner. If an organization were to revert to a fully on-site arrangement, it would risk losing up to 39% of its workforce, according to a 2021 Gartner Hybrid Workplace survey released in September.

“[Employees] overall, they’ve really stepped back and re-evaluated their life priorities and how they think about work, health, family and other things, ”said Graham Waller, a distinguished vice president for research at Gartner. “So join that with the fact that there are many opportunities in this war for talent, especially in the US, there are some of the largest in the record number of job openings.”

“Some organizations, including Google, say you can now work from anywhere,” Waller added.

Particularly in tech-related fields, employers are now offering higher salaries, signing bonuses, and job flexibility as they strive to meet hiring needs.

Amy Loomis, research director for the Future of Work practice at research firm IDC, said some policies that are not working well for organizations are inflexible management styles and blanket mandates that all workers return to the office in a single deadline.

“I’ve heard of some success with requirements that stipulate a number of days a week in the office, but less when they are simply a static policy rather than days designed for collaboration,” Loomis said. “Bottom line: Employees are looking for a strong commitment to policies and companies are moving from [a] a unique model for all to much more dynamic and precise ways of using time in the office “.

M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO of management consulting firm Janco Associates, said employees who work from home are unhappy with the prospect of having to go back on the road. “It appears that attrition rates are higher among employees who are told to go back to the office and follow immunization mandates.”

(Janco regularly surveys employees, but has not yet completed the latest version on the return to physical offices issue.)

Even without new data, Janulaitis has observed some key industry trends anecdotally. While the general worker productivity grew significantly During the pandemic, the forced switch to telecommuting 18 months ago hampered some business activities.

Many IT functions were not meeting key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs). Waiting and waiting times were lengthened (and maintained). There was limited visibility into staffing requirements for services and help desks. “The barking of the dogs and the loud background noises affected the ‘professional image’ of the service counters,” Janulaitis said.

“With many IT professionals working from home over the past few months, many of the employees did not understand the opportunities they had for training. Before the pandemic, the office environment pushed many professionals to request training,” Janulaitis said. “That didn’t happen as much in the work-from-home environment.”

Currently, most organizations (up to 85%) operate with a hybrid work model. The exceptions tend to involve the workforce where physical presence is necessary, such as physical stores and manufacturing floors. Some technology positions also require workers to be on site to deal with data center issues such as security and hardware issues or upgrades.

Even when implementing a hybrid work environment, organizations must remain flexible and not insist that employees be on site a certain number of days a week, or on specific days of the week, according to Waller.

“His plan was for people to come in three days a week, like Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they get a lot of pushback from employees, even in the form of attrition,” Waller said. “We are already seeing cases of that. Many organizations are modifying and evolving their plans. “

This year, 83% of companies expect customer demand for digital products and services to increase, and 65% of corporate board members want to accelerate digital transformation, indicating a willingness to finance and invest in technologies that enable hybrid capabilities, according to Gartner.

Organizations, however, should not stop there. They must also evolve their mindset around employee autonomy, allowing workers to choose when they go to the office or stay away. Employees involved in “head-down work” – work that does not require face-to-face interaction with colleagues – can do it from anywhere.

Waller said executives have a unique opportunity to break away from a location-centric work model designed around the constraints of the industrial age and redesign work around a people-centric model to secure the talent of the era. digital and better business results. “Don’t just focus on the amount of time you spend in the office and at home, but think about how to reinvent work itself based on people. Location is a secondary issue. “

According to the Gartner survey, for knowledge workers making the switch from office-centric to human-centric design:

■ 44% indicated a reduction in worker fatigue;

45% indicated that they would increase their intention to stay in a company;

■ 28% indicated that their performance improved.

For example, there is a shift in managerial thinking away from centralized decisions towards network-based peer-to-peer decision making that reduces bottlenecks and saves time in a hybrid environment. As hybrid work continues to evolve, eliminating the traditional manager role can lead to greater efficiency.

By 2024, 30% of corporate teams will be bossless due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work, according to Gartner.

Getting it right requires experimentation, learning and iteration, according to Gartner. But the result could be better performance, innovation and fairness in the workplace.

In some industries, progress made toward digital transformation during the pandemic could be lost as the world returns to a new normal. For example, the use of telehealth, or connecting with healthcare workers remotely, jumped 38 times from the pre-COVID-19 baseline, according to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting company. There are those who believe those profits could evaporate, as insurance companies could require more in-person visits once the pandemic subsides.

“Something like healthcare is largely driven by business models, particularly when it comes to reimbursement between providers and payers. In many cases, I am sure they will go back to what they were before, sometimes because of the vested interests of different actors in the ecosystem, ”said Waller. “So I’m sure there will be a pushback. The question is, how much and will we find the sweet spot in the hybrid model? “

IDC’s Loomis said the jury is still out on whether companies will attempt to return to pre-pandemic work environments.

Much of the decision to remain hybrid will depend on the broader organizational culture and business appetite to support new ways of engaging with customers and employees alike. Yet today, the connection between the employee and the customer experience “definitely points toward maintaining digitally driven standards of professional engagement because our personal lives operate that way,” Loomis said.

That said, for organizations that have not yet set their digital transformation course or are doing so while plugging their noses, the temptation will be strong to return to traditional ways of working, Loomis noted.

“This is an opportunity to build on progress, but it requires a complex set of changes across an entire ecosystem,” Loomis said.

In healthcare, for example, it is not just the convenience of telemedicine that requires the participation of patients and physicians; it also involves insurance companies, billing systems and legislation for the digital transformation to take hold.

“Overall, I think the degree to which flexibility is maintained in the workplace will be based on two key factors: the first is the digital maturity of an organization to maintain hybrid ways of working over time and at scale ( not just remotely or on-site), and secondly, the degree to which the industry and [an] the individual institution is keen to adopt this approach culturally, “Loomis said.” There will be external factors like competition for top talent that will inevitably tip the balance. “

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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