As the UK continues on its roadmap out of lockdown, companies are assessing how best to bring people back to work when so many of us have got used to working from home. How to get your employees back into the office safely – or at all – is a key consideration for employers considering how they want their organisations to run post-pandemic.
As the impact on culture and employee experience are carefully considered, we outline how technology will power the future of the workplace, wherever employees are based.
Build Back Better
Radical new ways of working require seamless technologically driven experiences. The Queen’s speech set out the aims to drive post-pandemic recovery and narrow regional inequalities. At the heart of the government’s plans are economic bills intended to boost prosperity across the country and offer life-long skills and training.
With many still required to work from home, the new hybrid working model is being considered as a long-term option by many organisations considering to what extent they should bring back employees to their offices. As a result of the pandemic, Britain is already embracing digital transformation as part of its plan to Build Back Better, with significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation.
During periods of significant adversity, innovation can be fuelled. As we emerge from lockdown, there is the opportunity to learn valuable lessons about how we have harnessed the power of technology to sustain productivity over the course of the pandemic. Now is the time to consider how leaders, policy-makers and people from all income groups and nations can harness converging technologies to create an inclusive, human-centred future. This period will be transformative of how organisations will redesign the working practices of tomorrow. Artificial intelligence and technology give businesses the opportunity to dedicate themselves to creation and innovation.
“There are opportunities for those ready to seize them, especially among brands whose leadership attitudes may be their only barriers to success.”
Dr Alexander Grous, London School of Economics (LSE)
In the report ‘Get set to thrive in the new digital era’, the LSE and Adobe study predict 25 per cent of companies are set to thrive in the post-pandemic economy as they have balanced short-term needs with long-term vision in adapting to the pandemic. The research categorises business leaders across Europe into three archetypes based on their response: Survivors (who focused on consolidation and cost-cutting); Hiders (who invested in technology to maintain their market position); and Thrivers (who made big investments in digital technologies to transform customer and employee experiences). The thrivers have set themselves up for not only immediate success, but future adaptability. At the heart of their economic insulation and future-proofing is adaptability, quick decision-making and continuous learning.
Environmental, social and governance
Companies are increasingly recognising their corporate citizenship responsibilities. The Environmental, Social and Governance agenda emerged as more urgent than ever over the course of 2020. Investors are increasingly scrutinising a company’s track record in each of these areas. The government also reaffirmed their commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Companies must recognise the part they can play in achieving this.
Digital innovation can reduce the environmental impact by taking everything online. Remote working has reduced business’ carbon footprints overall, with meetings online and less printing. This can apply to new ways of working, with pay reviews and other administrative tasks being performed and tracked with intelligent software. Companies are reassessing their approach to huge administrative tasks like pay reviews. Software can bolster this by replacing hard copies of company pay data with a robust online system, offsetting carbon emissions throughout an organisation.
After the pandemic, the majority of workers want to continue to work from home.
Before the pandemic:
5% of employees mainly worked from home.
65% of employers did not offer regular working from home or offered it to less than 10% of their workforce.
After the pandemic:
40% employers predict that over half of their workforce will regularly work from home.
37% of employers will not offer regular working from home or will offer it to less than 10% of their workforce.
The ability to create an online community across the firm and harness all things digital are essential. Leading global businesses such as Facebook and LinkedIn have already announced their plans to scrap the 9 to 5 in offices and give employees discretion as to where they work.
The digital workplace needs to deliver a seamless experience for employees, with systems that can securely store your data and be accessed by all employees, based anywhere. The opportunities of digital nomadism potentially far outweigh the cons. Google’s approach is summed up in three words: ‘Flexibility and choice’. CRO Sundar Pichai set out the new policy for the company which has been almost entirely remote since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The future of work is flexibility. The changes above are a starting point to help us do our very best work and have fun doing it."
Sundar Pichai, CEO Google
The plan is simple – giving people the flexibility to set up work structures that suit them best to give them choices – and demonstrates its people-oriented culture. This goes beyond what is convenient for the company and empowers people to decide where they work best and define when they want to collaborate. It allows people room for possibilities: to work from home, to spend time in another city for part of the year or to move there permanently. They are enabling their people to define their own workplace, wherever this may be. Even though the option to request flexible working has been open to all employees before the pandemic, there is now the weight of expectation in favour of employees making these requests, as sustained productivity during the pandemic has supported the case for working from home.
The opportunities in digital nomadism
Culture is often seen as the outcome of an organisation, a by-product of its vision and operation. However, is it in fact a driver of an organisation’s success? In Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, autonomy is listed as a key motivator. Giving people freedom and control over their work achieves more results for the company itself. When provided with the time and support to get their job done on a flexible basis, the value employees place in this can spark productivity and their overall engagement with work.
Dan Pink also identified purpose and mastery as the other two cornerstones of ensuring people are fulfilled at work. Purpose – where employees feel aligned to the vision of the company and their role in delivering the wider mission – is something that can also be driven digitally. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other video tools can create connections with remote teams, in addition to social tools across the business, such as Yammer. Finally, Mastery whereby people feel they are being challenged in a good way (operating between the extremes of anxiety and boredom) is also a key motivator. Having a strong digital community to ensure individuals are benefiting from the flexibility of work whilst remaining connected is a key HR challenge when it comes to defining how hybrid working will work for everyone.
Instigators of change
Whatever level of flexibility you offer to your employees, it is clear that the role of different functions throughout organisations has changed post-pandemic. Each function of the business needs to work together to drive innovation. What the pandemic underlined is that the most agile of businesses are equipped for the future. HR needs the tools to empower their decisions, take away cumbersome logistical tasks such as data processing and enable them to focus on strategy. Over half of employers are now focusing on their recruitment strategy as more buoyancy is anticipated to coincide with the easing of restrictions. Job vacancies in the UK are the highest they have been for a year, with the Office for National Statistics reporting “early signs of recovery”. With over one million employees not anticipating a return to the office full time, engaging remote workforces with creative strategies will be of paramount importance.
Change will be in the hands of all functions across the business. People adapted overnight to working from home, bolstering their workspaces and Wi-Fi connections to accommodate the demands of their role and getting used to working in lockdown. Technology will be at the heart of fuelling a new work/life blend. CIOs are increasingly called instigators of change and need to partner with influencers across the company to drive innovation.
“Technology leaders are being called upon to serve as kinetic leaders – a supercharged change instigator, pursuing transformation while ensuring resilience.”
Having the right tools at everyone’s disposal no matter where they are based will enable a workplace where people define their own hours, ways of working and how to collaborate. This will all need to be underpinned by having effective programmes in place to achieve this. PayReview offers IT, HR and wider employees crucial tools to adapt to the emerging hybrid workforce and will be amongst the critical software required to keep companies agile for the future.
We’ve designed PayReview with the flexibility to support numerous ways of working. The software avoids cumbersome and duplicitous spreadsheets or legacy systems that can prevail and complicate the pay review process. PayReview organises data at the click of a button and is intuitive to use, ensuring that everyone can be on the same page wherever they are based – supporting a digital community that enables you to act as one firm. Contact us today to arrange a free demo.
Founder of Paydata
Paul has led the reward consulting services at Paydata over 20 years, advising FTSE 100/250, private equity and other UK businesses.