Vation Ventures examines what companies need to rethink about their culture post-pandemic as they prepare for the future of work
As organizations prepare for the future of work, it’s critical they appreciate the trends that have been laying the foundation for the future of work for years. Generational shifts, social shifts, and technological shifts have been slowly building momentum. This momentum might have finally broken through with the abrupt shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led many to believe that we won’t be returning to the same work environments that we left behind.
Remote work has changed the landscape, but other changes include the advent of gig work, AI, and increased automation, each of which is likely to change employment on a global scale. This presents a significant challenge for business leaders. So, what do companies need to rethink to prepare for the future of work?
The Nature of Relationships with Employees
With the ongoing pandemic, there are a variety of trends that are likely to reverberate globally. For example, many service establishments are having difficulty hiring at the same terms they offered pre-pandemic.
Rather than truly adapting to the new landscape, some companies are quick to offer superficial perks. Sign-on bonuses or other short-term benefits can get an employee through the door. For short-sighted business leaders, that’s the only concern. These tactics are already backfiring in an environment that includes employee turnover at all-time highs.
The only way for companies to truly adapt is to rethink their culture completely. For decades, companies have excelled at propping up images that simply aren’t true. Leadership might talk about workplace values and their commitment to their teams, but employees have come to see these promises as buzzwords coming down from management.
Today, employees are looking for companies that genuinely demonstrate these values. An organization must show how they foster their employees with an environment in which they can be genuinely part of a team. Keeping employees around is more difficult than ever. Allowing remote work is far from the last accommodation that companies will have to make.
Workplaces are very different from the way that they were just a few decades ago. Employees don’t necessarily place the same value on stability as they once did, and many are willing to simply leave if they feel that they aren’t getting what they deserve.
In most fields, there are enough opportunities available that people can readily find new employment. Individuals have a wide array of tools available at their disposal to explore job openings. With more companies offering hiring incentives and flexible scheduling, employees can explore work in new locations, too. If an employee doesn’t feel supported in their current work environment, they can more easily change to a new one.
For this reason, companies will need to rethink their competitive strategies as they prepare for the future of work. Employee retention will need to be a priority for companies.
How do Employees See Remote and Hybrid Work Environments?
One of the most readily apparent global shifts is the number of people who now work remotely. The pandemic has forced many companies to rethink their approach to remote work, as many have recently begun allowing it for the first time. Equating how to manage teams across remote work to how to generally prepare for the future of work is running in the same conversation
Traditional complaints about remote work from leadership have included worries about productivity and barriers to communication. Throughout the pandemic, employees have learned that these obstacles can be overcome. Working remotely isn’t going to affect productivity in the future of work negatively.
While there are, of course, many workplaces that cannot incorporate remote work as effectively as an office environment, many companies have successfully transitioned to a system for remote work.
This was largely possible because of technologies that have already been available for years. The security and communication infrastructure for businesses to host a remote workplace environment were readily available from the outset of the pandemic. However, many companies were not employing these tools.
In many cases, tools for remote work were largely ignored. This was not due to a high cost or difficulty in implementation. Instead, a lack of supportive company culture provided the most significant degree of resistance to remote work solutions.
During the pandemic, there was still significant work to be done to transition existing operations to remote work. Many companies sought out significant innovations during this time. The businesses that were most successful (and the ones that have continued to enjoy this enhanced success) are the ones that have taken a focused and proactive approach to innovation in both customer and employee experience.
The biggest shock came to companies that refused to adapt to the future of work as it was unfolding. Companies that moved too slowly to implement new systems or ones that tried to maintain existing structures have been penalized in their workforce. Employees who felt that they were unjustly denied reasonable requests to work from home often quit or sought employment elsewhere. With this firm pressure, businesses started adopting work from home standards at a much higher pace.
If the reason for working from home were solely public health, it would make sense to return to traditional structures. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going to happen. During their time working from home, employees and management alike discovered that it is a viable solution that does not diminish productivity as once believed.
Instead, remote work drastically improves company culture by giving employees a better work-life balance. Commuting is often a significant part of a person’s day, and just avoiding that would be an incentive. But having more direct control over their day and schedule gives employees the tools they need to fit the disparate elements of their lives together.
Are people going to go back into their traditional workplaces? It looks like the answer will largely be, “no.” The generational shift has resulted in a workforce that is more willing to pack up and leave, which means that management won’t be able to coerce employees into giving up remote work.
The future of work will include a lot more employees working from home, possibly even more than during the pandemic. Companies need to rethink the workplace structure and which tools they’re going to need to adapt to these global changes.
What is the Social Element of Working from Home?
The future of work is going to bring many challenges when it comes to maintaining corporate culture. With businesses moving to semi or fully remote operations, the cohesion that comes with simply being in the same workplace might suffer.
Organizations are going to have to find innovative ways to implement their company culture. Leaders will have to find ways to address the social aspects of the work environment if they want to maintain productivity and support effective communication.
The hybrid work model seems to be establishing that the future of work is far more complex than management might initially believe. There are so many different factors to consider that the task may appear overwhelming, but there are effective technologies that can prepare any business for the future of work.
A large part of business leadership has always been face-to-face interactions. These interactions carry a particular social nuance that is difficult to capture when relying on work-from-home technologies. Management needs to make proper use of the tools at their disposal if they’re to maintain their company culture.
Companies are also going to need to rethink the ways that they bring new employees onto teams. Traditionally, this has always been a face-to-face procedure. The future of work might not allow that to happen. Onboarding and establishing workplace culture aren’t easy, and communication issues can quickly spiral out of control.
This is one area that hasn’t been thoroughly addressed during the pandemic. There has been an expectation that many accommodations would be temporary. Now that leaders recognize that this belief isn’t necessarily true, businesses must make dramatic shifts in their culture to provide an employee experience that will function within remote, hybrid, and in-office work environments.
The future of work likely won’t follow a rigid 9-to-5 schedule. While working from home, employees have realized that they can better incorporate the flow of their work and private lives. Without any strict reason to maintain completely separate blocks of time, a more fluid approach has arisen.
Companies that try to implement gradual changes are going to be left behind. Instead, leaders need to take drastic action if they’re going to maintain productivity during these turbulent times.
In many industries, this isn’t a matter of simply accommodating work from home on a case-by-case basis. Instead, work from home is now the established norm. Many businesses will need to maintain some physical presence, but not all of them will. Those that do will likely keep their numbers to an absolute minimum, with employees working remotely whenever possible.
This is a complete shift that will affect the workflows, tools, and technologies companies use to conduct their business. Management will have to rethink their approach to company culture to function in this completely foreign landscape.
One of the biggest things that a business can do to establish a solid remote work culture is to acknowledge remote employees with the same security and respect as any other employee. Traditionally, work-from-home jobs have been flighty at best, so reinforcing job security will make employees feel more comfortable in their new situation.
Employees are just as unsure about how to prepare for the future of work. Resolving these issues together in a fostering environment is an effective way to establish a solid foundation for an organization’s remote work culture.
What are the Needed Leadership and Communication Styles?
The future of work is going to be more transparent than it has been in the past. Leadership has often been intentionally vague with employees, keeping strategies secret and cultivating a divide between levels within the company. These strategies have always been counterintuitive and unproductive, but the need for clear communication in remote environments makes them unacceptable. To prepare for the future of work, organizations must prepare for the future of internal communication.
Having an in-office presence has always been beneficial to management teams. It’s easier to understand, plan, and execute management strategies when you are physically connected to your team.
Remote work means that communications now take place through emails, phone calls, and video chats. A manager cannot simply call an employee into their office for a meeting, which has changed the dynamics of operations for many companies.
One way that businesses have already begun to adapt to the new procedures is to have shorter meetings. The fact that everyone isn’t physically gathering in a boardroom already streamlines the process, but remote work has encouraged more concise communication overall.
While a meeting within an office can feel like a chore, digital communication makes it clear that the aim is communication. Many meetings that were once an hour or more have been pared down to 15 minutes or less. With a more precise goal in sight, managers can better use the tools at their disposal to communicate more effectively.
Working remotely has also forced many businesses to adopt systems that they already should have been using. Instead of sending everything by email, file share programs are being used. People are working collaboratively through online editing suites instead of passing Word documents back and forth.
The need for effective communication has resulted in more effective management and scheduling practices. While in-office, there might have been a lot of paper shuffling, digital work environments make tracking each aspect of a project much easier and more transparent. The most challenging part of this has been getting businesses to adopt these practices.
It isn’t just communication between management and employees that needs to change. Peer networks are now playing a more prominent role than ever in workplaces.
Professionals across many different disciplines have been seeking out peer networks to solve problems better and become more effective. This collaborative approach has led to increased innovation and higher productivity.
Many concerted efforts have arisen to help professionals build their peer networks, like the growth of the Innovation Advisory Council and its dedication to spurring innovation.
Innovation has never been more critical, and peer networks are driving it forward more so than in the past. Organizations will have to acknowledge and support this change in how their employees conduct business if they want to reap the benefits in productivity.
How can you foster open and connected collaboration?
One of the initial obstacles that remote work environments faced was the implementation of effective collaboration. While there have always been tools for collaboration, including video chat and messaging systems, businesses were reluctant to use them.
The wider onset of work-from-home arrangements during the global pandemic allowed many businesses to innovate how collaboration was going to work.
In recent years, many new products and technologies have hit the market to help companies more effectively manage remote collaborations.
One of the biggest mistakes that businesses made early on was a lack of trust in their employees. Many organizations used time tracking or other check-in methods, overcompensating their fear that relaxed supervision would reduce productivity.
It quickly became apparent that these tools were devastating for workplace culture and morale. Now, businesses are starting to establish a more open approach in which employees play a prominent role in managing their workday.
The tools necessary for implementing this kind of workplace primarily focused on easing communication. Project management tools allow managers to oversee project progress without overstepping boundaries.
Setting milestones and goals within projects seems to be enough to foster productive collaboration. Many platforms now incorporate extensive communication frameworks that allow employees to share ideas and comments relevant to specific sections of a project, all within an overarching notification structure.
Relying more on technology to implement employee management is one of the critical steps that businesses will have to take to stay competitive in the future of work.
Without the right tools, managers have to resort to ineffective methods and manual check-ins that waste time and slow productivity overall.
Will Your Company Prepare for the Future of Work?
There are still many challenges that companies must face as they try to prepare for the future of work. These challenges include adapting to the generational shifts, social shifts, and technological shifts that are defining the future of work.
However, there’s clear progress being made and plenty of resources out there for any business that really wants to commit to making changes.
People see a significant change in company cultures already. Businesses are now focusing on expanding remote and hybrid work arrangements, developing a cohesive social framework for these environments, and developing the right mindset and tools for inclusive communication and collaboration.
It’s not entirely clear where the future of work is headed. By committing to ongoing innovation, businesses will be better equipped to continue thriving as the workplace shifts on a global scale.
Vation Ventures, an OrgVitals partner, helps innovative companies successfully navigate the emerging technology landscape to support their growth journey and stay ahead of the competition. We reshape the way you innovate leveraging our research platform that enables companies to instantly source leading emerging technologies, bespoke consulting services, and global ecosystem of CXOs, VCs and entrepreneurs. Discover more about Vation Ventures here.