Over the past few months, COVID-19 has completely reshaped how we live and work. As the nation gradually reopens for business, we will see even more changes in how we go about our days. While measures like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are the visible face of our new normal, there are plenty more underway – many of them designed to make life better, easier, and more equitable for today’s workers. Here are some of the workplace shifts we hope to see in the coming months.
Acknowledgment of Our Personal Lives
In many workplaces, it’s common to avoid mention of our personal lives and the responsibilities they come with. But many workers are parents or caregivers, roles that aren’t just critical to our identities, but also to how we spend our time. Thanks to the Zoom calls and teleconferences that have become our way of communicating, we’re now more aware of the multi-faceted lives that people lead – and we think that workplaces will strive to be more accommodating of workers’ need for flexibility or empathy.
A Focus On Community and Togetherness
A brand is only as strong as its community. That’s true of its workers as well. Working remotely has encouraged us to come together and focus on building our community and relationships. After all, when we all share interests, goals, and beliefs, we’re more likely to achieve together. Rather than companies prioritizing business outcomes as a focus point, we believe that the new approach is going to be a bottom-up approach that emphasizes worker community and belonging.
Flexibility Like Never Before
For years people have been pushing back against the traditional 9-5, 5-day, on-site work week. After all, its rigid structure has worked against caregivers, parents, workers with disabilities, and people with chronic health conditions. In industries traditionally concentrated in expensive cities, this format has also made it difficult for minorities to gain a foothold. Now that we’ve all seen firsthand that productive work can happen anywhere and at any time, we anticipate that workplaces will embrace flexible working that works around employees’ needs – making every workplace more inclusive, adaptive, and positive.
Meetings Cut to a Minimum
Meetings are the one thing that pretty much every worker feels similarly about. Too often they’re time-consuming, rambling, and lack clear deliverables. After months of remote work and plenty of upskilling on information-sharing platforms like Slack, Trello, and even our humble email accounts, businesses are better positioned to skip the bloated meetings and share key information or to-dos via distributed channels. As a bonus, cutting meetings also ticks the social distancing box and can reduce our collective carbon footprint as well.
Empathy and Check-ins
Mental wellbeing is closely tied to performance. Under COVID-19 we’ve all had our emotional ups and downs – but organizations with managers who have empathetically checked in and supported their staff are the ones that are coming out ahead. We expect that greater awareness of and action around emotional wellbeing will become one of the positives we’ll see more of in the months ahead.
New Measures of Success
The shift to remote work means that “butts in seats”, once the most visible metric of productivity and dedication, no longer applies. Social distancing, virtual working, and flexible work hours mean that increasingly our commitment is linked to our actual work outcomes rather than the number of hours we spend at our desks. Not only that, but we anticipate that our shared definition of success will change as well. ROI doesn’t have to mean dollars on the bottom line. It can also refer to cultures of belonging, low turnover, and doing right by our communities.
The Future Looks Good
Things are still in flux, and we expect plenty of bumps along the road ahead. But while COVID-19 has been an extremely challenging time for all of us, it’s driven us to try new approaches – and realize that perhaps the old ways were ripe for change. Here’s hoping that as we head back to our offices (or don’t) that we all strive to create more positive, flexible and equitable workplace environments that foster better working for all.