Future Of Work And The Post-pandemic Workplace

The future of work seems to be a fantastic claim just out of the reach of the average office worker. But that has changed now. In the last year, the world of work has navigated not only one of the worst medical emergencies and humanitarian crises in modern history but also turned a decade of digital transformation with increasing success. This triumph is not to be taken lightly – but to be used as an impetus to go on full steam ahead into a future of work that brings social networking, stakeholder participation, and employee engagement onto the screen in front of the working professional.

HR tech plays a huge part in shaping the future of work: users of technology can mold their productivity metrics and drive outcomes without needing to know much about the code that formulates the functionality. Finally, part and parcel of being part of a futuristic work scenario are being prepared for more shifts in modes of working, collaboration, and project management.

Changing nomenclature as part of future of work

In the sense of alterations in the future of work, the very foundations of “work” have been swapped out. What is a place of work? It is no longer an office building in which people spend 8-9 hours a day 30-40 hours a week. Rather, they would be working from a client’s site, or from a plane/car ride as they go to meet one of the stakeholders, or even from the comfort of their own homes or dorms as they take a course in some new skills. Even better, some professionals might be working on the side while also learning from the arrangement, in a true-blue work-study program.

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The definition of who is considered as part of the “workforce” has changed too. There could be part-timers who were once derisively labeled as “temps” but now juggle multiple projects as contractors or gig workers.

Consequences from the Future of Work are already felt

This trend of “working from anywhere” is an invariable point of discussion in the Future of Work not because it is an innovation in itself unheard of before, but because it has changed the HR landscape and brought out new challenges while resolving some old ones forever. For instance, team dynamics have gone through an upheaval as the team members were obliged to collaborate virtually. Tech-savviness was no more a good-to-have skill but one on which every activity at work depended. At the same time the challenges of obligatory childcare outside the home, hiring caregivers for invalids in the house was done away with as wage earners got to care for their family themselves. Working while also attending to the needs of the home and its dependents can be a tight but fulfilling balance. 

While this brought more to do upon the to-do lists of working professionals, it also helped them find ways around external entities such as hired help and made them more self-sufficient. To the trends of the future of work, this is an important contributor because it puts many workers outside the conventional sense of “the workforce”, such as independent freelancers or gig workers on the same footing as other working professionals.

For the corporate leaders, there are lessons in the changes that brought about the future of work into the present:

Untapped resources: Eligible workers who stay out of the workforce because of specific constraints such as the 9-5 workday now find it possible to take up less conventional (but equally fulfilling) part-time roles. These sections could verily become available as an impactful component of the working population if some constraints are relaxed.

Location-independence: Talented workers do good work – whether they contribute in the capacity of consultants, independent freelancers, or knowledge workers at the client’s site. Some of them might naturally prefer to work only on a contractual basis or a virtual workplace arrangement. This could be an opportunity for employers to try out a new workforce engagement model and not see it as a demerit that counts against such applicants.

Projects vs. hours: Workforce planning is one area where the changes have literally seeped in. The work done, projects concluded, and results achieved are there for all to see. If they are not, they have to be tapped using productivity apps and performance management mechanisms that are more comprehensive. Watching the clock waiting for a certain number of hours to elapse so that employees can clock out for the day is a thing of the past.

An acceptance of all things hybrid: The hybrid workplace was the beginning. People worked from wherever they could, for as long as they could manage. These chunks of workdays could be coordinated better with practice if the pressure of half-days and full-workdays were removed. Working in part from the office and in part from a home or during the commute or client’s site are now common. As a consequence, a hybrid of performance metrics and parameters are also now acceptable, with multiple supervisors or stakeholders bringing in their two cents to make up a rating for the worker for a limited period.

Support role for humans at the “workplace”: The role of leadership does not change – it is still about providing the best possible environment in which the workforce can thrive. This means educating managers on showing empathy and consideration for families with special needs, stress related to the pandemic such as job loss, medical emergencies, and vaccination support. Each of these, or any other challenges, must foremost be heard and then dealt with. People’s strategy should invoke support during tough times and categorize mental and physical wellbeing as a priority.

When these seemingly intangible but cogent factors are in place to support remote workers, the case for a remote-working future of work is entirely positive. It is well established by now that remote workers are more productive during their chosen work hours. This has led reputable business houses like Tata Consultancy Services to envision moving 75% of their workforce into Work From Home setups. While several global corporates have openly declared joining this bandwagon, others take the hybrid office idea ahead by saying they would offer their employees a choice to work from home or office, as they prefer.

Whether or not these plans pan out, the future of work will continue to have a heavy component of remote workers and hybrid workplace set-ups. These ideas stand to work better when leaders take the importance of creating a sense of community and employee experience to heart while forging teams in person or online.

  • References:
    7 Myths Standing Between You and the Hybrid Future of Work | Gartner | Future of Work Campaign ebook|2021
  • The Future of Remote Work in India | SHRM | Shefali Anand | July 1, 2020
  • Is Remote Working Necessary for India Post-Pandemic | CRN.in | Moumita Deb Choudhury | April 6, 2021
  • 59% employers in India not in favour of remote working: Indeed survey | The News Minute | MARCH 18, 2021

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