Covid-19 and the changing workplace dynamics

Aimee Chetcuti

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 February, 2021 at 3:38 pm by Andre Camilleri

Aimee Chetcuti is the founder of BrandU, a people development start-up dedicated to helping young professionals land their dream job faster. With her eight-year experience in youth development and Human Resources, Aimee offers insightful advice for students and young professionals on CV writing, interviewing, networking and career-building.

From lockdowns to nose swabs and vaccines, the pandemic may be the most traumatic life event of our time. For almost a year, we collectively battled an enemy that is omnipresent, unseen, fast-moving and indiscriminate. Abruptly, we traded handshakes and group hugs for air kisses, virtual hugs and elbow taps. Our smiles disappeared behind masks and monitors. Sneeze guards and glass doors separated us from everything we have ever known. Covid traversed the globe with immense velocity and ferocity, leaving us shaken and our economies in almost complete paralysis.

The situation’s accelerated and dynamic nature left us with no choice but to continually rethink and reshape pretty much everything that has been custom for the past hundred years. The workplace is one of those things. And while Covid will eventually be a dark part of our history, and things will go back to normal, we’re sure that the pandemic will leave more of a mark than we originally assumed, especially in the way we work.

In this article, Aimee Chetcuti, founder of BrandU, lists five (out of many) long-term changes we will probably observe in the workplace community even when Covid-19 turns up in our rear-view mirror.

Rethinking ‘life goals’

Between lockdowns and social distancing guidelines, Covid helped us recognise what truly matters in life. Slowly, we are switching from scheduling life around our 9-to-5s to doing the exact opposite. We now realise that our jobs and salaries do not define how rich we are. Instead, it’s family, moments, love, belonging, health and well-being that do just that. Through this newly conceived inward-looking disposition, we understood that the significance of the adage that happiness lies within, and not in our jobs or our bank accounts. While I do not mean to imply that money does not solve any of our problems, I believe that our workforce’s priorities and expectations will sway sideways and more towards work-life balance, with a focus on work flexibility and well-being.

Revolutionising where we work

Covid has created a homeworking revolution, forcing many traditional companies to unexpectedly go virtual and grapple with a myriad of challenges: unreliable Wi-Fi, sub-par technologies, issues with cybersecurity and paper-based work systems. But we are also experiencing the perks of remote working – less time commuting to the office, more lunch breaks with the family and a reduction in air pollution. Eventually, most businesses will adopt a hybrid model, allowing people the freedom to decide where to work from depending on their schedules.

Redesigning our physical places of work

Speaking of offices, while most people will work from home most of the days post-Covid, companies will look to restore a centralised sense of community and belonging. While probably downsized, offices will become work hubs where people congregate, brainstorm, socialise and exchange knowledge. The workspace architecture will be unrecognisable as meeting rooms become studios, desks become round tables and the office is no longer the place where one sits down for nine hours a day to take phone calls and send emails. Similarly, the way we build homes and where we build homes will shift as we appreciate the usefulness of home offices and the futility of living in central areas close to our workplace.

Reconsidering when and how we work

Covid is also enabling us to rethink when and how we work. Remote-working has shown us that we do not need employees checking in at 9am sharp to keep the ball rolling. Things like international business travel and days-long board meetings have gone straight out of the window as the pandemic has transformed the notion of work flexibility from a sought-after perk into a powerful people practice. Changing consumer preferences and a heightened interest in social distancing will limit large events such as conferences and conventions. We can’t but also mention the shift towards written communication versus spoken communication. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and other messaging platforms, which are already available, will skyrocket in use. Lastly, new tools will emerge, designed to fit the specific industry and company needs.

Redefining measures of success

With the 9-to-5 possibly no longer a thing, traditional companies that used time to determine employees’ productivity will begin assessing output and results instead. By focusing on results, companies push people to make time count for them, rather than count time for timesheets. In the process, they enable a culture of trust, ownership and accountability. The shift will take time, but companies will recognise that adopting tools that allow for synched remote-working and measures business performance is a must.

Unexpectedly, the Covid pandemic has necessitated the mass-adoption of remote-working. Covid has left us no choice but to work around the problem and find alternatives to our 9-to-5 office routine. There is no doubt that the experience of working from home has shifted our new state of working to the extent that makes going back to the way we worked before extremely challenging for most organisations. Of course, it goes without saying that for every person happy to work from home, there’s another itching to return to the office. But as we battle on through repeated lockdowns and as the threat of a crumbling economy looming in the distance assures us: Companies that do remote better now and in the future, win.

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