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Reimagining the future of work

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(First of two parts)

While many organizations had previously embarked on implementing more agile, people-centric and digitally-enabled workplaces, these same enterprises were not sufficiently equipped to deal with the rapid proliferation of COVID-19. After more than a year of adapting to the new normal and transforming how we work, it became evident that employees, workplaces, and the future of work have changed in significant ways that we could not have previously imagined.

According to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee survey, which compiles the input of more than 16,000 employee respondents across 16 countries, the workforce has positively adapted to the uncertain circumstances in real time. On a 1 to 10 scale, almost 75% of employees rated their job satisfaction at a 7 or above. Employees are fully embracing the flexibility that has made remote work possible, with 54% indicating that they would leave their company if the same flexibility in work location and scheduling is not extended post-pandemic. Despite the lack of physical connection between employees, 48% of respondents believe that their company culture improved during the pandemic.

Because the data indicate that workforce needs are changing to adapt to the present circumstances, there is an opportunity for leadership to reimagine the future of work. Though employees value their new levels of flexibility and appear to be equally productive working from home, we’ve yet to determine the long-term effect of remote working. There is also less clarity surrounding how much is lost from the lack of in-person engagement and interactions, especially in terms of coaching and mentoring.

To deliver long-term value for employers and their employees, organizations will need to consider three critical courses of action: gaining deeper insight into the transformed employee experience; enhancing the collaborative needs of employees through remote and hybrid working environments; and supporting leadership with workforce insights.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEW NORMAL WORKER
Virtual collaboration has become the norm in enterprises across multiple industries and internally across functions from operations to innovation, with organizations leveraging technology to shift manual processes and workflows to a virtual platform. With an increase in adoption rates, user data and resources, tech companies have capitalized on the opportunity to evolve and enhance their offerings. Tools enabled by cloud technology are now ubiquitous, with new collaboration software features such as reactions, cross-platform sharing, and image filters digitizing the human connection. Organizations are exploring how to better leverage cloud technologies to deliver enhanced employee experiences to retain high employee engagement rates.

Employers who initially expressed skepticism about maintaining the productivity of tech-enabled remote work can now objectively view the data that indicates that productivity remained high after a full year of working from home, according to the 2020 Harvard business review study, “Research: Knowledge Workers are More Productive from Home.” While the long-term productivity implications of working remotely remain uncertain, EY survey participants responded positively: 65% agree that remote work enables better productivity, and 66% believe that their productivity can be accurately measured regardless of where they work. Now that employees are aware that their work does not have to be limited to specific locations, they want their employers to provide them with more technology, benefits, and support to further improve their remote working experience. They have expressed their desire for reimbursement for hardware and home office setups, followed by training for remote presentations. In certain countries like the Philippines where a stable internet connection is not always guaranteed, some employees are also looking to their leadership to provide solutions to their data needs so they can work more effectively.

With a vast range of tools, technology and platforms available to the workplace, HR and technology leaders should assess which of these add the most value and identify which of these are the most pragmatic to deploy given their unique culture and business model, while mapping out their new enterprise tech stack. EY Global Technology Consulting Leader Dan Higgins believes that leaders will likely uncover surprising findings that show how new tech impacts employee experience and retention. He added that 40% of employees want their organizations to offer better communication and collaboration tools to boost their productivity.

To achieve this, Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) need to collaborate to assess their workforce and garner insight into how tech enables and transforms the employee experience. They will need to understand how tech enhances inclusive contributions and ideation in areas of collaboration and team dynamics, while also remaining aware and prepared as new cybersecurity and technology-related risks arise.

After assessing how the new ways of working and rapid adoption of technology impact employee productivity, leaders will also need to better understand and potentially expand employee expectations around flexibility. The transformational journey will have implications on how office spaces can be configured to encourage certain work practices and better support the physical and mental well-being of the workforce.

In the second part of this article, we discuss how to optimize work in the use of remote and hybrid workspaces, and the necessity of making data-driven decisions fueled by workforce insights.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Lisa Marie T. Escaler is the People Advisory Services – Workforce Advisory (PAS WFA) Leader of SGV & Co.

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