Making remote work, work

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 April, 2022 at 2:34 pm by Andre Camilleri

Kyle Anastasi is Client Technology Lead for Microsoft Malta

There are multiple facets to the post-pandemic world that deserve thought and discussion and which might probably fuel debate. However, there is one reality that would be hard to challenge, and it is that we are not the same people who went home to work in early 2020.

At face value, the pandemic has accelerated a transformation which had already been underway during the previous decade, with a more diverse and dispersed workforce and the increasingly central role of all-things digital in our different dimensions. Yet, the past 24 months have brought about a more subtle, but deeply entrenched transformation.

The role and contribution of work within a person’s life has been radically transformed. The experiences since we hurriedly packed our things and rushed home some two years back have left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how people define the role of work in their lives. Physical and mental health concerns rightly shot up on top of people’s – especially younger ones – priorities.

An extensive survey carried out by us at Microsoft on work trends covering more than 31,000 people in more than 30 countries found that some 53% said that they are more likely to put their health and well-being over work than they were before the pandemic.

To many, the pandemic was and remains, an eye-opener.

This situation has created significant new expectations among employees. These must be met by business leaders in testing times – with economic, political and environmental volatility the order of the day. We find ourselves in a world which is not yet completely out of the woods from the biggest health scare in a century, and yet it is now confronting itself with a geo-political struggle which is threatening to subdue recovery almost at its onset.

Irrespective of such developments, for many employees, change is here to stay. Flexibility is non-negotiable and the high percentage of respondents stating that they would see themselves elsewhere within 12 months appears to suggest that employees feel the market is on their side. And data appears to prove them right, with firms struggling to recruit talent and unemployment levels – even in Malta, at record lows.

Employers thus need to be very wary of such reality. The cost of identifying human resource replacements and re-training new personnel is considerable and can dent a firm’s growth. Business leaders cannot look away any longer.  At the same time, some business leaders are genuinely concerned that work from home dilutes the camaraderie in a team and reduces the sharing of company knowledge between staff.

Caring about employees and instilling a sense of belief that their career respects their work-life balance concern, is now crucial for business performance and eventual success.

In a post-pandemic world, one which values purpose and ESG considerations, companies that place employees’ well-being and experience at the core of their actions will not only remain relevant but will actually build a competitive advantage for the years ahead.

The survey also comes up with other interesting insights. Admittedly, it may come as no surprise that the majority of employees would rather spend more time at home. But here’s a very particular insight. Respondents have indicated that they are not completely opposed to spending time at their office, but if they are to do so, they need to feel it is worth the effort.

While 38% of hybrid employees say their biggest challenge is knowing when and why to come into the office, only 28% of leaders have created team agreements to define these new norms.

All this suggests the need for a re-think of the way we organise our working lives and the associated technological tools to help us manage it well. The place of work will not matter much if employees feel alienated, detached and devoid of the right collaborative tools that support this new normality.

If we manage to get this right, companies will be a better place for all, ensuring a stronger allegiance by team members, whether dressed up in corporate HQ or in the comfort of their home.

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