Going forward, many companies are planning on adopting a workforce management model that combines on-site, hybrid, and remote office work. According to a survey conducted by HR consulting firm Mercer in May of 2021, nearly 70% of companies plan on moving to the hybrid model even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, with only 20% returning to the traditional office-based model. Employers are hoping that embracing a hybrid workforce will help them attract and keep top talent since most people who began working from home during the pandemic want to continue.
Rapid transformation brings opportunity. The World Economic Forum calls COVID-19 “…a catalyst to reinvent the future of work for managers who take the opportunity to make things better than they were.” Companies that are positioned to take advantage of the dynamic new environment will weather the storm with their workforce intact, while those that don’t will face financial hardship, layoffs, and an inability to hire and retain workers.
Ready to Learn
There’s a common misconception that crisis time is not the best time for employee training. While some company leaders try to take advantage of current skill sets when struggling to stay afloat, COVID-19 has shown that dynamic times call for a workforce that is prepared to learn. For many companies that scrambled to shift to a new workplace model, their only option was to help current employees gain new skills.
For all to succeed in the post-pandemic workplace, workforce management must find team members who need reskilling and upskilling to meet changing demands. Management should also identify imbalances in resource allocation brought on by changes in team workloads. When necessary, new roles should be created to help advance the use of innovative technology.
Management must recognize the human toll of COVID-19. The stress of working from home compounded many people’s anxieties about the pandemic. Overnight, empathy and understanding became critical leadership skills. Going forward, successful managers must pay just as much attention to how team members feel about recent workplace disruptions as they do to building or rebuilding the business.
Mental Health Awareness
Working from home meant new tensions and anxieties for many employees, requiring a new awareness on the part of workforce management about the issues surrounding mental health. During the pandemic, with more employees than ever leaving jobs for mental health reasons, supplying mental health support became a necessity. The problem cuts across all levels of the organizational hierarchy, including C-level executives. In response, many companies are rebalancing priorities and including workforce mental health goals as part of their strategic planning, alongside financial goals. In some cases, this is a fundamental culture change.
According to a 2021 Harvard Business Review survey, more employees are willing to talk about their mental health at work than in a 2019 similar survey. This new openness is helping to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and encourages more employees to seek treatment.
Remote working requires management to give up some level of control. Replacing it with trust and transparency allows team members to show that they can get the job done with less supervision, a win for both employees and management. Increasing transparency during a time of enforced isolation has been challenging for many companies, while others have found that meaningful two-way communication is key.
The goal of having a leaner, more agile organization became more urgent for many companies due to COVID-19 when a misstep could bring serious business repercussions. Having a significant percentage of employees begin to work from home all at once required rapid decision-making and quick deployment of new initiatives. The COVID-19 experience taught many managers that the old ways of doing business are no longer practical. As workforce management learns exactly how much they can veer from traditional processes without disturbing operations, the door will open ever more widely to more workplace innovation.