The Post-COVID Workplace

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two business people leaning on a desk and discussing digital strategy

The pandemic transformed the workplace. It not only accelerated the need for digital transformation but also the need to view the workplace as something greater than just a destination. Instead, it’s where we come together to create, collaborate, and generate the best outcomes for our clients.

When the pandemic calms down, some companies will require their employees to return full-time to an office environment, some will move to a remote work from home/work from anywhere (WFH/WFA) structure, and some will take on a hybrid structure (certain days in the office, others remote).

The hybrid vision of the workplace allows employees to engage in the environment where they are most productive. It gives organizations the power to recruit not only on a national scale but also a global scale. It doesn’t matter if I’m living in Miami and working for a Dallas-based company or living in Costa Rica working for a Boston-based business. What’s important is that I’m delivering the requisite outcomes and that the architecture is in place to support this type of work environment.

Businesses are trending more and more towards a distributed structure. For example, in September, REI sold off its Seattle-based 400,000-square-foot corporate campus to support more of a spoke-type infrastructure with satellite offices. Instead of one large central location, REI is creating “satellite collaboration centers.”

Requiring knowledge-based workers to work in cubicle farms is an antiquated structure.

Streamlining the employee experience allows knowledge-based employees to engage wherever they are the most productive.

This pivot away from a more traditional workplace requires that senior leaders develop confidence that the necessary outcomes will be delivered. The right technology, data analytics and the appropriate management direction will ensure this happens. Hesitation about moving to cloud-based business applications should be abandoned. On-premise solutions to support business operations are like buggy whips – they’re outdated and outmoded.

Cloud-based applications will provide leadership with the quantitative, qualitative and behavioral data to drive the right outcomes across each enterprise and to ensure a more satisfied and productive workforce. 

The essentials

The new workplace requires leadership to embrace digital transformation, fueled by more innovative technology to ensure workforce effectiveness, communication, learning, engagement, feedback – and, ultimately, the outcomes needed. Managers can’t continue to lead organizations in the same way that they did when people were in cubicles or coming into offices. Organizational agility and flexibility with decision making are now a necessity for the viability and survival of any business. 

Embrace technology as part of the management experience, but also be aware that data analytics does not replace the requirement for strong people skills, good judgment and the ability to lead employees. Senior executives must take personal responsibility to ensure that employees are informed and provided with very regular feedback opportunities. Everyone must think through the impact of change management.  Resilience demands flexibility. Most importantly, there must be trust, collaboration and belief in the team members.

Leverage that data 

When actionable insights from data are leveraged in a positive way, employees are more likely to contribute and enjoy their workplace. Data must be kept in direct context to the job performed.  Otherwise, analytics will be of questionable value. 

Organizational leaders and managers want to bring people up to higher contribution levels.  With the objectivity and equitable application analytics can deliver, employers can get truer measurements to guide their employees to higher levels of performance and excellence, and avoid attrition.

On the flip side, employees want to be recognized for the work they are doing, but how is that accomplished in a virtual environment? Employees are burning out, fueled by the need to prove that they are doing everything they can to drive higher outcomes and make sure you know their level of engagement. Cloud-based productivity intelligence can look at behavioral data and determine how people are engaging, when they’re engaging, and to what degree they’re engaging.

The application can also help show employees how they are delivering against the leading indicators. Giving employees data that shows how much work they’ve accomplished makes them feel great, especially because it is objectively determined.

Preserving culture

Preserving corporate culture is critically important. The challenge is to find a way to maintain that human contact, to keep it authentic, and to foster trust.

To the largest extent, culture is about how people interact with people. Internally, this is about streamlining the employee experience, which in turn relates directly to creating a superior customer experience.

Building the right culture for an organization requires that senior management strategies are better aligned with the people and processes in place. Leadership must continually evolve processes and strategies at an equivalent rate and based directly on employee feedback.

Building a culture of trust involves open communication, clear expectation setting, and phenomenal coaching for the right outcomes. This requires leadership staying close and communicating clearly – in effect, a continual feedback mechanism.

The workplace transformed

Digital transformation is less about the technology and more about change management.  Employees must know that they’re empowered to execute, supported appropriately with technology and coached by leaders that are equipped with objective and equitable reference points of data.

There was no playbook for the black swan event that occurred with this global pandemic. We can be certain that other unforeseen dynamics will continue to present challenges to execution. However, adapting to new methodology for leading people in a virtual environment is an absolute requirement. It requires thinking in a different way.  It does not require physical proximity.

The redefined workplace supported by appropriate technology is valuable for both employee growth, management enablement and employer results.  The future of work has immense human and technological interdependencies for virtual collaboration, creativity and individual productivity.

Photo credit- ijeab @ FreePik

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