Do current remote work arrangements prove promising for the future workplace?

By Morgan Kavanagh, Specialist Staffing Group (the US division of SThree) Executive Vice President and Managing Director 

As some states begin to lift their shelter-in-place orders and adopt semi-normal practices, including opening offices, one of the more prevalent topics across many organizations and industries is the future of the workplace. SThree, like many other businesses, has mobilized more than 80% of its talent to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. In the past three months, we have learned much, and this has opened our eyes to facts that will forever change how we work moving forward. 

I recently sat down for a virtual round table discussion with a group of thought leaders to discuss the future of the workplace. You can view a video recording of this here. The conversation came about from SThree's Project Hermes, an initiative to understand the current marketplace conditions. As part of our analysis of business response globally, we spoke with leaders from more than 300 companies around the world, along with our top clients, to understand current challenges, opportunities, and what's next as organizations begin preparing for the 'new normal.' 

Here are some of the key takeaways discovered during this discussion. 

Environments should become even more inclusive. 

Before COVID-19, the US unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 2.5 times higher than for those without disabilities. Many employers were unwilling to make the investments needed to allow for a divergent workforce, claiming "undue hardship." 

However, as organizations implement some of the current characteristics of remote work arrangements into our permanent structures, inclusive behaviors should increase. 

Current circumstances have proven that working remotely can have a positive effect because it allows talent pools to open up to disadvantaged communities – it levels the playing field. 

Traditional professional practices like a firm handshake or maintaining eye contact, that once gave a person credibility, yet, can exclude someone with a disability, won't mean as much. It's not about where your desk is located, the irrelevant things and concepts that once held value in office settings are now removed. Our current work conditions have reaffirmed that it's all about an employee's input contributions. 

We will create more leaders.

With an increased focus on output and productivity – and not presenteeism – we will be able to see managers leading their teams to create great work. We are undergoing a trust revolution, and we are moving away from people managers and shifting to a culture that consists more of people leaders. 

Good communication is more important now than ever and figuring out how to help leaders build connections with a remote team will be critical to get the best out of employees.

As working from home becomes the rule and not the exception, managers will need to carry out the more intimate parts of their virtual environment. Responsibilities such as performance reviews and delivering potentially negative feedback will require an ongoing dialogue in a new way.

We can't assume that only the same people who required provisions in the office will need them at home. Everyone needs accessibility and depending on the work environment, that may change based on location.

The willingness to make provisions such as these presents an opportunity to create a genuinely fair environment. Addressing the different needs of our employees speaks to an organization's operations agility, as well as its commitment to support its people. 

Shaping the future, repeating past mistakes should not be part of it.

While working from home presents an abundance of benefits, some adjustments need to be made. Many employees are less likely to multi-task, are concerned over excessive video meetings, and are finding it increasingly difficult to create a work-life balance.

We have an opportunity right now to build the future and addressing these challenges will be a critical component of that process.  

What’s next?

Moving forward, I am excited about the research that continues to come out of our Project Hermes. We will use those insights to learn more about what our customers want, particularly against the backdrop of a changing world and a global economy.

Through our #STEMSeries events, we collect information from our employees and the broader workforce that allows us to collaborate, widen our perspective, and create an environment where our people can do their best work. 

 If you’d like to view the discussion in full, you can do so by clicking here!

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