What will our workplaces look like in a digitally transformed 2021 and beyond?
An inconceivable number of changes have occurred in the last year. Those born from necessity will no doubt vanish as quickly as they appeared. But those that go on to be adopted by businesses in the longer-term are adopted with good reason. They will no doubt add value, in some way, to your people and processes.
Examining Modern Workplace trends
Microsoft has examined trillions of signals from emails, meeting outcomes and surveys of workers worldwide, and has published some fascinating insights into modern workplace trends and how the world of work is changing.
- Pre-pandemic, many people never touched a keyboard after 5pm – now they do.
- Offices will not disappear, but managers and employees agree that working from home must be a long-term option.
- As the professional and the personal merge, Gen Z and millennials struggle more than older generations to find balance.
- Working from home drives more empathy among colleagues worldwide.
- Employees feel more included when everyone on a call is remote.
Analysing these findings got us thinking about the forces currently shaping the world of work and which ones may stand the test of time.
Here are three trends which have emerged during the pandemic and are likely to influence the way you manage your modern workplace in 2021 and beyond.
The merging of the virtual and the physical
We talk of remote working and returning to the office. But the modern workplace will not be a landscape for either/or. Rather, business leaders will have to accept and prepare for the virtual existing alongside the physical.
The hybrid workforce is a prime example of this. Your people will be at home, on the move and in the office at any given time. Accommodating their needs day-to-day will touch many corners of your business strategy.
Key takeaways for leaders
Managing this new, more flexible approach to working means you will be facing the following considerations.
- Implementing and sustaining this seismic shift operationally
From choosing user-friendly, cross-device enterprise apps to reviewing transportation policies and redesigning your training programmes. Hybrid teams have diverse needs which demand creative and flexible thinking from business leaders. It may be a re-draft or a raze to the ground. Either way, you can be sure that flexibility will need to be a defining feature of your operational, everyday and logistical processes from now on.
- Maintaining visibility and control over your distributed workforce
Nobody likes the impression that they are being micromanaged. But a difference exists between this and maintaining a view of your teams’ activities. There remains a real need to retain visibility of your people’s tasks, priorities, roadblocks and goals. Whether through instant messaging apps and mobile technology, a solid communications approach or a combination of both, you need to strike a balance. Keeping a holistic view of your hybrid workforce while ensuring they don’t feel scrutinised will be a top consideration in 2021.
- Understanding and managing cyber security implications
In the modern hybrid workspace and the age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), your data no longer has boundaries. The methods of cyber criminals grow more sophisticated. The need to recognise tactics such as phishing and malware is essential to protect your business. At the same time, your hybrid teams need user-friendly systems and fast access. Protecting your data, clients and reputation from the devastating effects of cyber crime can be achieved with mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) to SaaS applications. Cyber criminals never sleep and the best form of defence is preparation. The need for a meticulous approach to cyber security will only be amplified by the rise of the distributed, hybrid workforce.
A new era for health and safety
How you guard the health and safety of your people and business will look very different, very quickly in a modern workplace. No longer will it equate to a single mandatory training day annually highlighting fire exits and first aid boxes. There are three main areas of change you will likely face as a manager when it comes to health and safety.
Key takeaways for leaders
- Physical wellbeing
Businesses sanctioning working from home and supporting employees on the move accept the health and safety responsibilities that come with this. These may come in the form of arranging home working risk assessments, supporting the retrofitting of home offices or sending ergonomic equipment to your people by courier.
- Mental wellbeing
The stiff upper lip has left the room as employees and managers alike acknowledge the increasing acceptance of saying ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to burnout. Recent Microsoft research found that 30% of remote and firstline workers globally feel more overworked during the pandemic. It also flagged a 69% increase in out-of-hours Teams calls. With these figures in mind, the blurring lines between business and leisure means mental health monitoring is likely to be on your agenda as a manager. In the future, your health and safety policy may need to include quiet spaces for office-based workers, the provision of mental health days, the training of mental health first aiders and offering employees apps to manage the stresses of the modern workplace.
- Investing in safe physical spaces
Assuming offices will return to their pre-pandemic conditions is problematic for managers. Even if the threats of COVID-19 are removed, its effects are likely to linger in the minds of employees. The general consensus may be to retain distancing measures and stringent sanitisation. You may need to factor in re-designing spaces, the provision of more cleaning equipment and people, PPE and training for much longer than you may have originally expected.
The rise and rise of upskilling
Remote working and adjusting to last-minute lockdowns has not only impacted our physical spaces, the equipment we need and the structure of our days. It has also led to the need for new processes, the fast implementation of new software and the training it demands. Whether teaching employees to spot phishing attempts, learn Teams tips and tricks, add metadata to SharePoint files or supporting the next stage of their career development, there’s no doubt that upskilling your people holds significant benefits across the board. And with online training more accessible than ever, we predict this pandemic trend will be a fixture of the future.
Key takeaways for leaders
- Knowledge is empowering
Research shows that a very real hunger for learning has emerged during the pandemic. According to data published by Udemy, enrolments in online courses surged by 425% during lockdown, with businesses’ and government usage rising by 80%. Factoring regular training into your peoples’ development plans can deliver many benefits. It indicates that you’re genuinely invested in their professional growth. Operationally, it can improve your systems, speed up processes and boost productivity. From a personal fulfilment perspective, it can boost confidence and job satisfaction. Knowledge is empowering and something your people will want, expect and thrive on.
- Train and futureproof in one go
Keeping your people’s skills sharp not only supports their personal development. It can also help your business adapt to the challenges of a digitally transformed world. Enhancing the skills within your business can act as a tactic for futureproofing your operations. Maybe you’ve introduced Agile working methods, implemented new project management software or given people the skills they need to adopt a DevOps approach. Any and all of these things contribute twofold to your business and position it well to weather the changes of the macro environment.
Join the discussion on modern workplace trends and management strategies
Watch the now on-demand webinar – Technology and management strategies for the hybrid office.
- What constitutes a successful hybrid working model.
- How implementing the right technology stack can help redefine your modern work landscape.
- How a modern digital workplace can help provide safer workplaces during each phase of return.
- How the latest innovations in Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and Workplace Analytics can bring about equality and inclusion of employees, regardless of location.
- How to ensure employee wellbeing and productivity in the hybrid world.
You’ll leave with actionable insights and enjoy on-demand access to other resources, created by our senior team, including Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals.