(re)imagining workforce in the ‘next normal’
- 82% of surveyed employees stated that they missed office
- There is a need to apply some prudent measures to support the return of the workforce to offices. Leaders and organizations’ policies have a huge role to play
- A proactive approach is needed to ensure employee health and well-being in the current scenario
- The future of workplace strategy needs to adapt to the new work practices and processes
MUMBAI: Globally, we are in midst of a tectonic shift in terms of the way organizations work. As India Inc continues its work from home, the biggest shift that has taken place in the last four months has been from a focus on employee productivity to employee wellbeing. Therefore, how organizations address the anxiety and stress of its employees has become the focal point of corporate culture all across the globe.
The work from home experience until now
The workforce needs a supportive infrastructure and a futuristic approach for its comeback. The initial shock of the lockdown and the subsequent gratification of working remotely has now plateaued across the workforce. Several factors have led to such a change. Nearly zero social engagement with the peer group, office colleagues and buddies are some of the reasons that are compelling a large section of the workforce, currently working from home, to feel stressed and miss their office.
JLL recently conducted a Global Work from Home Experience Survey to the understand the take of its employees on the current crisis and introduction to the new business reality and its probable future. The results of the study revealed that Indian workforce continues to be confident about the future. The fundamental and foremost priority for leaders is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and HR community is ready to be the ambassador of this change.
According to the findings of JLL Global Work from Home Experience Survey, 41% of the surveyed employees believed that a professional environment is conducive for work while 31% of them laid emphasis on the importance of human interaction and social connecting at workplace. 82% of surveyed employees stated that they missed office.
As the corporate sector prepares for the next normal amidst the pandemic, the elevated confidence of the employees suggests immense opportunities as we redefine the future of the office. 59% of employees surveyed have shown optimism about the future state of their business while showcasing high confidence in the future of their companies. The survey further revealed that 56% of employees have the highest faith in the resilience of the national economy.
“It is safe to say that an office is the face of an organization, and employees are its greatest asset. As offices promote collaboration among the workforce, there is a need to reinvigorate the stalled process of working together in a much more cohesive and innovative manner. While we need to work on our re-entry strategy, there is a need to address and care about the fundamentals of human experience at workplaces, stated Tanvi Choksi, HR Head India & JLL Business Services Global.
“However, the most vital aspect of Work From home is that the workforce, while managing household responsibilities, expectations of family members and the office work, may be continuously dealing with isolation and mental stress. It is even more prevalent in people, who live alone in metros, away from their families. The undue stress and anxiety can have an impact on their well-being. Hence, their psychological safety is paramount, and re-entry is necessary, she further added.
The CHRO’s double whammy – Two key elements are paramount for leaders – how to keep the productivity intact and maintain the mental stress levels under control while the workforce is away from the workplace Hence, a re-entry strategy needs to encompass within itself all concerns – the stress of working from home, maintaining productivity levels like pre-COVID-19 times, new hiring, talent retention and the social distancing for safe working. It also implies that the future of workplace strategy has to adapt to the changes as per new practices/ norms.
The approach towards workforce well-being
With most employees in India facing a prospect of an extended work from home scenario, several changes and HR policies are the need of the hour to offer a sense of confidence and safety amongst the workforce such as:
Regular awards and encouragement to boost employee engagement during COVID – A reframed rewards program will thus go a long way in building an intrinsic forward-looking people-oriented company. Several in the peer group have confirmed to initiate sensitization sessions with line managers to infuse some of the best cultural values. Human resources teams across firms will need to implement a rewards program or a strategy to acknowledge the contribution of an employee even when he/she is working from home or working in shifts. For instance, people working in the logistics and retail sectors are at high risk of contracting the COVID virus. Those working on client sites, maintaining client facilities are often spending long hours to ensure a safe workplace for everyone else. Tough times are often a test of people’s culture of an organization.
Reskilling can equip the workforce to be future-ready – A re-skilling initiative at multiple levels, including those at managerial roles, may come as a support to the staff. Moreover, learning and development will equip the workforce to be future-ready. For the staff to perform optimally, managers must handhold their team members to guide through critical client deliverables. Regular manager-employee connect sessions may help in this regard.
Digital adoption & transformation – Adoption of technology and automation have quickly evolved to become a part of the entire workplace ecosystem. Employee engagement programs, thus, need to be institutionalized. The adoption of new technologies will both facilitate remote working and also ensure workers’ well-being and efficiency on their return to office buildings. Occupier demand is expected to gravitate toward technology-heavy smart office buildings, reflecting their ability to support companies’ environmental, sustainability, health, and wellness initiatives.
Realigning workforce strategies & new approach – Leaders need to institutionalize new ways of working to their teams to help them navigate through this pandemic. While line managers, team leads are expected to be the change enablers, leaders will have to become that role model on top of the ecosystem. Leaders need to come forward and narrate their own stories of transformation, fight against the challenges at home, etc. A top-down communication will motivate employees to up their game.