Globally, what are companies planning in terms of flexing for the future, returning to the workplace, and leveraging remote working business impact, beyond restriction periods?
Flexible work is not just about remote working, but the capacity to work differently.
Yes, it covers “nuts and bolts” aspects of flexibility at work, including how, when and where work is done. Also importantly in the 2020 environment, it considers work from a more human perspective, in the context of people distancing from each other on a broader societal level, not just work.
Mercer released their 6th instalment of global covid-19 surveys, and the results make for some insightful reading. Covering more than 1,200 companies from around the world with broad industry representation, the full results are available here.
Here’s our take and brief analysis of the survey results.
Survey Insights Analysis
Around 10% of companies already had flexible working policies implemented prior to COVID-19, which they are simply continuing with now. In other words, they already had policies in place suitable enough to cover the COVID impact.
A further 46% of companies had to tweak their in-place policies to include COVID-related impact.
From the balance, only 5% have no intention nor interest in introducing and embedding flexible working as a feature of their regular employment practices.
This is a massive vote in confidence for flexible work as an entrenched feature of workforces going forward.
However, to ensure success, companies acknowledge that changes are needed.
Of the companies ramping up their flexible workplaces, almost two-thirds are planning to change their organisational culture in order to evolve to a hybrid work environment, consisting of both in-office and remote work.
There is also a significant change focus in terms of training employees and managers to lead and operate in hybrid workplaces.
We have heard enough anecdotal evidence of managers resorting to draconian working methods to compensate for their ineffectiveness to manage from remote, and this could be a factor in driving increased cases of stress, depression and anxiety.
Remote working adoption, pre- and post-COVID
Competent leadership of hybrid workplaces is but one concern. The removal of this and other obstacles to flexible working is vital for its success. Almost 65% of companies are concerned about their leaders’ attitudes and skills to manage a flexible workforce, and the majority of them list maintaining their culture as a further area of concern.
Regardless of this, the undeniable trend has been towards greater acceptance of remote working as a viable work method.
The chart below reflects the percentage of workforces that worked remote prior to COVID-19, compared to the post-COVID (now) state.
Not only is the COVID-19 impact clear, companies anticipate that this broad picture will remain in place in the future workplace.
Businesses realise that team success relies on each person’s ability to perform at the highest level, and fast, both as an individual contributor and as a team.
Though business strategy might change, the need for best-in-class products and services will never.
A ‘Remote Working Maturity Framework’ helps outline your business journey and different touch points and interventions. It helps you successfully achieve the remote transition to the desired level as well as outlines the interventions needed by the company for this successful transition, with a focus on achieving business targets.
A proof of concept
The reasons for companies choosing to retain remote arrangements are insightful, as if COVID-19 restrictions have provided proof of the concept.
The top 2 responses for keeping remote practices in place are surprisingly not related to safety or health issues, but rather:
- Employee engagement and productivity (76%)
- Talent attraction and retention with enhanced EVPs (66%)
In addition to the location (WHERE) aspect, companies have applied flexibility to the following areas of remote working.
- WHEN work gets done – more than 70% of companies indicated having practices like flexible scheduling and compressed weeks
- HOW work is done – almost half of the companies offer technology alternatives in regard to work
- WHAT work is done – around 28% of companies consider project-based activities and automation of tasks within their policies
This is all great albeit unsurprising news. What about the hard elements? Are businesses still performing?
An astonishing 92% of companies agree that their workforce productivity has either stayed the same, or has gone up, since they began working remotely as a result of COVID-19. These are anecdotal until full-year cycles and reporting can confirm them, though.
Companies expect to make additional investments mainly in “connection” tools like Teams and Zoom; and collaboration or sharing solutions such as Slack and Trello.
Also, given the impact of the pandemic on employee benefits, there is great interest (52%) in digital health options like tele-medicine and smartphone apps, and well-being programs (62%) covering mental, physical, financial and psychological wellness.
Businesses also realise the importance of putting the right remote working practices in place to ensure sustainability.
The excitement of sudden remote work set-ups has worn off, and the challenge now is how to prevent:
● A degenerating work culture and managers uncomfortable with remote leadership
● Distraction and loss of accountability
● Dipping team morale and emotional commitment
● A reduced team bond and trust
● Isolation and psychological illnesses
Remote working is here to stay for most, but companies need to pay attention to how to best apply them to maintain their work culture, get maximum returns and develop compelling EVPs.
The struggle to adjust to this new way of working and to keep people engaged is real.
This was already the case in ‘normal’ office settings and is even more important when people do not work in the physical space.
We are all busy adjusting to unprecedented realities. One Circle is here to help. Get in touch.
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