From manufacturing to marketing, all major businesses in the world are changing the way they operate in the wake of the deadly coronavirus. As response to the outbreak becomes a long-term shift in how people work, organizations that support and adopt new ways of working can thrive more than the others going forward. The new working conditions for organizations include diverse factors such as employee experience, digital tools, and talent acquisition to implement such seismic shifts effectively. Businesses need to rapidly adjust with changing needs of employees, suppliers, and customers while navigating the financial and operational challenges.
WHO has established the following guidelines for organizations to follow. These changes will fundamentally alter how employees go about their regular days at the office.
While making necessary changes to boost protection for everyone and make workplaces safer, organizations are struggling to cope with the ‘new normal’. In the times of social distancing, keeping teams connected and reaching goals through coordinated efforts are getting more challenging for organizations as, according to KPMG, they face several pain points:[ref id=14]
With these new challenges, priorities have also changed as employees try to adapt to a working setup they were not trained for. This adaptation curve varies across age groups and experience levels in the organization. Thus, reacting fast with a first-generation heterogeneous group of employees who are learning at their own pace is proving to be a challenge for many organizations.
The exponential rise of the coronavirus across the world has led to changes in priorities, based on which organizations will need to implement changes. For many, home and office have become one and the same. Others without working spaces are bound to take drastic measures for safety and ensuring social distancing. With organizations around the world being as reactive as possible in implementing unprecedented changes, it is evident that organizations will not be run the way they were. According to BCG, following are the key priorities that will eventually pave new priorities for organizations in a post-pandemic world:
People today prioritize a culture that endorses sound health and hygiene, accelerates smart work and flexibility, mitigates risks as to people and skills, and looks up to leadership that is more humane and collaborative. Although implemented as a temporary solution to the crisis, these priorities will morph into workplace expectations beyond the crisis.
The spread of coronavirus has forced companies around the world to ask employees to work from home (WFH). Companies like Google, Slack, Microsoft and Facebook have instructed their employees to WFH until the end of 2020. With the increasing adoption of WFH culture, the use of collaborative and video conferencing tools is also increasing to meet changing employee needs. As of March 19, Teams — a hub for team collaboration by Microsoft — had 44 million daily active users. Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, had 200 million users in April, rising from 10 million users just 3 months ago. Under such circumstances, evaluation of an employee’s work largely depends on how he/she presents individual work on these online platforms besides the quality of work itself. Thus smart work will become more crucial to employees and managers going forward.
While WFH might be the new normal for many, its significance and usability will vary depending on the industry an organization is operating in. According to a research by Gallup, a global analytics firm, people who prefer continuing to work from home are highest in technology, insurance, arts, entertainment, media, finance, and professional services. However, people from industries like education, retail, transportation and construction have a lower preference to work from home in the future. Irrespective of industries, employee health is now a more important factor for organizations to reach set goals and healthcare needs to extend beyond physical concerns.
With increasing caution about the virus, physical and mental health has become paramount in order to foster resilience in a remote workforce. Organizations are already establishing high standards of corporate hygiene and seeking help from big data and digital tools to support management in dealing with health problems while maintaining social distance. Mental health of employees has become something for management to consider as the crisis has caused enormous stress for many employees. Although working from home is sometimes regarded as the goal for work-life balance, those who actually work from home report higher levels of stress. The inability to hone their skills is adding to the stress for many. Especially, workers for whom in-person collaboration was a big part of their job. At work, employees could meet their colleagues, or go on coffee breaks. However, the current setup is getting overwhelming for many as the line between personal and work life fades and responsibilities at home increase.
Abrupt shift to remote working can reduce cohesion and increase inefficiency as reflected in the survey published in Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company:
Same can be said about organizations in Bangladesh where most companies have co-located teams in the same office, allowing instant communication and fast-paced decision making. In this situation, agile teams can be a source of competitive advantage for organizations. Such teams are well suited for disruptions as they can adapt to fast-changing business priorities, disruptive technology and digitization. Results from an analysis of 22 organizations in six sectors worldwide identify three key outcomes of agile transformations by organizations viz; i) improved customer satisfaction, ii) employee engagement, and iii) operational performance. These outcomes are mutually reinforcing and together constitute the Agile Impact Engine.
Despite the agility, a team is as competent as the members in it. Currently, employees are learning new sets of skills as the needs arise. However, organizations need to develop a system where employees do not have to wait for a crisis to learn new skills. Continuous remote working and digital collaboration will pose an upskilling challenge. Accelerated adoption of digitized approaches accelerated by COVID-19 can be a good thing in this case. These platforms can be used to re-create the best version of individual learning while working remotely. The more organizations take up these reskilling measures, the more prepared they will be whenever a disruption arrives in the industry.
Since March 26, most private companies in Bangladesh have asked their employees to work from home with a view to keeping operations running while ensuring employee safety.
Although changes have taken place, the abrupt shift did not let most employees get accustomed to the new work environment and required digital tools beforehand. Coordinating with coworkers and clients has been troublesome for many as they have to make multiple calls online and offline for tasks that could otherwise be completed through one in-person meeting. Besides communication, access to resources is a concern for many in the new working circumstances. Communicating with key personnel is not a walk away anymore and employees are finding themselves getting less access than before to necessary resources. The challenge of establishing proper internet bandwidth still persists. It is still a systemic challenge and the infrastructure is getting more fragile as demand for the internet in households spikes. Besides a stable internet connection, organizations are also concerned with data protection, something they did not have to think about before going digital abruptly.
All these changes mentioned will not take place at once. Ultimately, it comes down to the organizations that will be implementing the changes. The public health situation and employee feedback will serve as important decision variables in that case.
Saim Ahmed Shifat, Content Writer at LightCastle Partners, has prepared the write-up. For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]
The LightCastle team has been analyzing the macro and industry level picture and possible impacts wrought about by the Covid-19 crisis. Over the following days, we’ll be covering the major sectors shedding light on the possible short and long term ramifications of the global pandemic. Read all the articles in the series.
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