The global COVID-19 outbreak brought a paradigm shift in every sphere of life. Out of these, the business landscape experienced a massive upheaval in terms of transitioning to a remote work model, altering the management approach, and so on.
A sudden shift to teleworking compelled organizations to revisit their workflows and processes and introduce new norms to navigate seamlessly through the transition.
Businesses started forming a robust tech repository that comprised tools for collaboration, real-time project and resource management, virtual onboarding, and so on. These trends made remote working hassle-free, and both employees and organizations began to appreciate the benefits that came along the way. Subject to this, work from home became a preference from just being a mandate.
Gartner’s research states that:
Almost 50% of employees will continue to work remotely in the post-pandemic era.
This blog highlights the journey and evolution of remote work from the pre-pandemic times to the post-COVID era and the work trends that will continue to rise. Let’s begin with diving deep into the history and emergence of remote work.
1. Throwback to the pre-covid times & why remote work wasn’t a norm?
Multiple factors led to the resistance in adopting the remote work model. However, over time the benefits and presence of modern tools and technology overruled the concerns. Here is a glimpse of this journey:
I. Companies were wary of moving their data outside their premises
Due to a dearth of cybersecurity infrastructure in the previous decade, data security and privacy was a major concern. Companies were daunted by security breaches, spyware, or malware attacks during those times.
They were also concerned about hiring third-party vendors for data management because they would have less control over data in their distribution centers than over on-premise data. So, businesses refrained from moving their data or providing access to it outside their premises.
II. Evolution of the onsite-offshore model for non-critical activities
In an onsite-offshore model, an on-site team takes up the project, and part of the work is outsourced to off-shore teams. As the off-shore team is often from a low-cost county, it incurs fewer costs and expenses than the on-site model. At the same time, employers have the liberty to hire talent from across geographical boundaries.
Looking at the benefits, organizations took a step forward and adopted the hybrid delivery model. However, they initially started outsourcing only non-critical tasks to off-shore employees as data security concerns were still prevalent.
III. Creation of captives for critical activities with secured environment
While outsourcing non-critical tasks was their first step towards saving costs, organizations were yet to find a way to increase profitability. They, thus, felt the need to devise a plan to outsource critical tasks to off-shore low-cost locations in a secured manner. Eventually, they introduced the concept of captive business units.
A captive center is a client-owned service delivery center, generally in an off-shore and low-cost country. It provides service resources to the client organization.
The client unit conducts critical operations as a part of its own. Despite being performed remotely, these activities are not outsourced to the vendor’s premises. Hence, the client has better control over risks associated with intellectual property theft through advanced security measures.
IV. Reluctance to adopt the work-from-home model
Companies thought that remote work would be a deterrent to team members’ productivity. They were also skeptical about giving autonomy to the workforce while working remotely due lack of complete trust in employees.
As employees weren’t acquainted with the work-from-home model, they also were equally hesitant to embrace it and doubted its viability. So, although access to data outside offices and outsourcing of business tasks had started, the evolution of remote work to its present form was still far.
2. How Covid-19 changed the global landscape of work culture?
When Covid-19 struck, worldwide lockdown, strict travel bans, import-export restrictions, etc., turned the business environment chaotic. Global business leaders had to shun their routine work culture due to mandated office shutdowns. Despite significant data security and productivity concerns, they had to resort to remote work to survive the crisis. Besides, the work culture and management practices evolved in several ways.
For instance, organizations embraced video conferencing applications like Zoom and business collaboration tools like Slack, MS Teams, etc., to streamline communication and exchange necessary documents. They also leveraged resource management tools to manage and keep track of the workforce dispersed across boundaries. Virtual onboarding and team-building sessions became part and parcel of the work culture to foster a sense of belonging and keep the team connected in a distributed workspace.
3. Future work trends to look out for in the post-Covid era
The mandated work from home model brought forward a myriad of workplace trends that will continue to grow even in the post-covid era. The reason is they provide end-users with multiple benefits, including workplace flexibility, reduced infrastructure costs, better work-life balance, location independence, and more.
Below is the list of the trends most likely to last in the post-Covid era due to their high utility.
I. Growing preference for a hybrid work model
Glassdoor’s recent survey states:
Nearly 9 in 10 employees say they would prefer remote work for part of their person-days even after offices reopen.
The fact highlights that inclination to hybrid work arrangements among employees has soared globally. Organizations are catering to this growing demand as it provides mutual benefits to both employees and employers. Businesses can save a significant amount on infrastructure, maintenance, and utility costs. At the same time, employees have the flexibility and time to fulfill their personal commitments better. When employees strike a better work-life balance, they feel valued, which directly influences their engagement level, and increases their productivity, thereby benefiting the company.
II. Increased importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE, &I)
As businesses moved online, companies realized that they could consider expanding beyond domestic boundaries to hire talent. Now that enterprises are hiring employees from various countries, ethnicities, and cultures, it has diversified the workplace further. Remote work emerging as the new norm has also brought about myriad job opportunities for differently-abled individuals.
Moreover, more employees bringing their expertise to the table has also opened the door for innovations. All these changes have compounded to make the working culture all-inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing. Due to all these benefits, enterprises are ready to sustain this reinforced diverse and all-inclusive culture in the future.
III. Higher investment in employee wellness programs than ever
Gartner’s survey finds:
Over one-fourth of the employees surveyed are mentally depressed as a result of the pandemic.
Isolation, anxiety, and a sedentary lifestyle have led to increased mental and physical health issues amongst individuals. As a result, they have become more health-conscious and started taking initiatives to lead a healthy lifestyle. This growing awareness for physical and mental well-being led organizations to revamp their employee wellness strategies accordingly.
They are offering paid-day offs, fitness sessions, career counseling, and so on. For example, Starbucks announced to provide 20 free mental health sessions every year to its U.S. employees and eligible family members.
IV. More job opportunities for professionals from small cities/country towns
Earlier, companies would often hire all their employees to work on-premise. As their offices were typically in tier-1 cities, professionals from country towns would find it challenging to relocate there. The reasons often comprised monetary constraints, family priorities, health issues, etc. However, the upsurge of remote work has brought about a monumental shift in their careers.
As a result, remote job roles gained more impetus. Several giants like Amazon and General Motors rolled out permanent remote jobs to adapt to changing times. Small-scale businesses also followed suit. This change paved the way for more job opportunities for professionals from small cities and country towns. It, thus, provided them with a fair chance to grow in their respective careers.
V. Better preparedness for business continuity
One of the vital lessons that companies learned from Covid-19 is to develop business resilience alongside business efficiency. They have, therefore, started drafting a business continuity program to detect potential threats and eliminate them ahead of time with efficient strategies. They first pick critical resources in various departments, including marketing, finance, etc., to act as risk managers.
They then create a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to identify and quantify critical risk threat scenarios next. Next, a plan for alternative actions to mitigate the impacts of risks is formulated. For instance, a manufacturer can identify secondary suppliers to serve as backups in cases of primary supplier constraints. Finally, team members are trained to form a business continuity plan to make them resilient and ready to tackle risks head-on. They are also trained to hone their emotional intelligence, teamwork, and other soft skills to stay calm and confident during adverse situations.
VI. Minimized operational costs by adopting cloud infrastructure
The mandated work-from-home has escalated the prominence of cloud computing. Enterprises are now looking to replace physical tech infrastructure with cloud deployment models. Cloud computing doesn’t require a large in-house IT staff solely to install, repair, and maintain storage infrastructure. It, thus, helps a company cut down on huge upfront installation and maintenance costs, unlike traditional on-premise systems.
Additionally, as cloud computing enables seamless and secure data sharing, businesses consider it a trend they can keep following. Moreover, a company can allocate IT resources to more technology-intensive tasks and align their efforts with its long-term goals to boost profitability.
VII. Emergence of new tools to facilitate virtual team building activities
As employees are dispersed across varied geographies, the need of the hour is staying well-connected to ensure smooth functioning of the team and completion of projects. Hence, organizations are using several management tools to enhance collaboration and bring remote team members on the same page. Enterprises are also implementing tools to streamline business processes like resource management, project management, and others.
They are taking steps to keep their remote team members’ engagement levels high using virtual conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype for team-building sessions. Further, virtual employee recognition programs and celebration events are being held extensively to enhance communication, strengthen relations, and develop a sense of belonging to raise productivity.
The Covid-19 outbreak forced companies to rethink their organizational framework and policies and adopt new work culture trends. It also re-emphasized the importance of focusing on not just business efficiency but also resilience to stay afloat amid a crisis.
Over time, they experienced that the adopted work trends are the best fit for the “new normal” post-Covid. So, while things may have started becoming normal again, large-scale work culture shifts and trends are here to stay.
What workplace trends would you follow post-Covid?
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