The future of work is here and is now—or as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts it: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”1
From a human resource management point of view, the last 12 months have convinced us that the future is provoking, exciting and flexible. The disruption brought on by Covid-19 accelerated our transition to a digital era. Besides offering employees the opportunity to work remotely, employers have also promoted digitization of core work processes such as meetings, gatherings, onboarding, trainings, and other ways to reskill or upskill their employees. Such a sudden and forceful disruption in our normality may generate distress and anxiety for a large part of the population, while the full impact of the downturn caused by the pandemic remains to be seen. Subsequently, employee wellbeing is a hot topic for many workers and employers. Organizations that boldly and substantially address their people’s concerns, while facing a future of uncertainty, will have a sustainable advantage in the future of work agenda.
Our global surveys show that, at this stage of the pandemic, almost 70% of respondents have more than half of their workforce working remotely. The experiment seems to be successful since 9 out of 10 employers state that productivity has remained unaffected or even increased during that time, indicating that for many companies a flexible (or hybrid) work model that allows a combination of remote and on-site working according to individual needs and preferences is possible even in normal business times. Yet almost 80% of business leaders are still skeptical and would expect a drop in worker productivity were flexibility to become permanent.2
According to the respondents who would implement flexible working on a permanent scale, their main drivers are employee engagement and productivity, attraction and retention, as well as the enhancement of their overall employee value proposition (EVP). Still, there are certain limitations to consider on the road to a flexible organization, such as managers’ readiness to lead a flexible workforce, the nature of jobs and to which dimensions they could flex3, the impact on productivity, maintaining consistency in the application across the organization, and staying true to the company culture and its core values.4 All this could only work if underpinned by a culture of openness, trust and mutual understanding, thereby fostering inclusion and setting common ground between workers and employers.
An inclusive work environment is one that accommodates the various needs and preferences of a diverse workforce. Companies need to provide substantial evidence that they do so through everyday employee experience. The new, compelling experience would be the one that moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach and offers a unique employee value proposition based on a what-matters-most-to-you approach.
These unprecedented times provide a unique moment in history for people officers and business leaders to reset the future of work agenda5 by reflecting on their recent experiences and employee input. Now more than ever, it is their inherent responsibility to invest in their workforce and set the foundations of a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future of work.
- Microsoft, 2020, Article by Jared Spataro (April 30th, 2020) available at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2020/04/30/2-years-digital-transformation-2-months/
- World Economic Forum, 2020, The Future of Jobs Report.
- Mercer, 2020, The New Shape of Work is Flexibility for All.
- Mercer, 2020, Global COVID-19 surveys available at https://taap.mercer.com/covid19results
- World Economic Forum & Mercer, 2020, Resetting the Future of Work Agenda: Disruption and Renewal in a Post-COVID World (White Paper).