Mckinsey commissioned a global survey of business executives back in June of 2020 to see how Covid-19 disrupted the way their organisations carried on with their work. The responses to this survey would suggest that executives, who come from businesses of different sizes and a full range of industries from eight countries, foresee a prolonged period of disruptive change in work trends ahead due to the acceleration of automation and digitisation among other things.

Work Trends depends on the current market conditions and technological advancement of our society, as humanity moves towards the information technology age, more and more companies cut off the physical workforce and moves toward the nonface to face workplace.

As we can see from history:

We started as hunter-gatherers,

Moved towards farming in the Agricultural Revolution,

Shifted to manual labor in Industrial Revolution,

and now, created a new work trend called Remote Workers in the “Information Revolution”.

Add the spice of the pandemic fear, the government-mandated restrictions, and the ever-growing need for data, thus a new breed of the workforce was born.

We’ve compiled a shortlist of these trends that will be particularly influential to businesses in the small to medium-sized (SME) sector.

1. Remote work is here to stay (in varying degrees)

Pre-pandemic bias against remote work meant that companies subscribed to the belief that the work-from-home work model hurt company culture and productivity.

44% of the companies all over the world don’t allow remote work even as of today’s current conditions, while 16% goes fully remote and others that lie in between these percentages allow the hybrid type of work meaning the occasional work from home and work in the office. (Owl Lab)

When quarantine and sheltering at home became non-negotiable realities that all businesses had to deal with, millions of knowledge workers were sent home, armed with their laptops and other digital technologies to allow them to work remotely.

15% of executives across all sectors surveyed said at least 10% of their employees could work remotely two or more days a week moving forward, thereby embracing the hybrid model for instances where some form of in-person collaboration is needed.

The knowledge economy’s response to Covid proved once and for all that productivity is possible, albeit challenged for some reasons that could be unique to a person’s domestic circumstances.

The upside to all this is that it has de-stigmatized a model that is fully capable of sustaining worker productivity when implemented with great care to mitigating the distractions and maximising the benefits of collaborative cloud tools. In fact, a recent survey by Mercer with 800 employers stated that 94% of these employers have seen the same or higher work productivity since the work trend transition to remote work.

Another critical area is adequate re-skilling or upskilling of workers to ensure that every member of the team has the wherewithal — mentally, emotionally, and technically — to accomplish their work and adjust goal setting and expectations to match the limitations of the digital environment.

We have an article about the demand for a virtual assistant that you definitely need to check out!

2. Increase in data collection and/or surveillance

A Gartner survey showed that an increasing number of employers are using technologies to monitor their employees. Virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage, and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chat are among the surveillance methods employed.

But the rise in non-traditional employee monitoring tools increased during the pandemic.

Most businesses are primarily interested in tracking worker productivity but others are interested in monitoring employee engagement and well-being as well, and as it turns out, employees are open to the idea provided that the data you are collecting is connected with their health and safety.

For as long as you maintain an ethical culture of transparency in letting them know what you are doing and why this will increase a sense of trust within the team.

This brings us to the next point in greater detail…

3. Expanded employer roles in ensuring the wellbeing and occupational health and safety (OHS)

Employers in the more ‘woke’ end of the spectrum have used the opportunity to take a more active part in ensuring employee wellbeing in terms of their financial, physical, and emotional health.

Being fully aware that remote working poses its own set of challenges to knowledge workers, employers can provide additional support measures to alleviate some of the pressure on those who might have to juggle their work, homeschooling children, and simultaneously maintaining a household full-time.

They might come in the form of enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation, and child care provisions.

Bonus Tip:

There are two core values that are needed to be (silently but obviously) imposed in this new work trend:

Integrity in the “virtual workspace” is highly needed given the fact that no one is watching what the employees are doing. Yes, employers have monitoring tools but there are lots of ways on how to hack these systems.

How to promote integrity in the workplace? This is a hard question to answer, but by simply taking good care of your employees and giving them the second core value…

Extreme Ownership which was popularized by Jocko Willink is the practice of owning everything in your world, to an extreme degree. It means you are responsible for not just those tasks which you directly control, but for all those that affect whether or not your mission is successful. This value can be easily implemented in an organization if the ownership of one’s work starts from the top to the bottom.

4. Focus on critical skills rather than siloed roles

The future of work trend will see a shift in how organisations recognise and develop critical skills.

Before Covid, critical roles were seen as those having critical skills that enabled an organisation to reach its high-level strategic goals. However, businesses will start to see that there is another category of critical roles on the tactical level and these are roles that ensure the success of essential workflows.

Workflows can drive competitive advantage.

A business should encourage its employees to develop critical skills that have the power to open up opportunities for their career development, rather than limiting their learning pathways to a very pigeon-holed role description. Offer greater career development support to employees in critical roles who lack critical skills.

5. Rise in the contingent workforce

Sadly, many people lost their jobs during the pandemic. The volatility and uncertainty of economies will continue for some time as they struggle to wake from the stupor of recession.

This will invariably influence businesses to expand their use of a contingent workforce (also otherwise known as independent contractors) to maintain flexibility in workforce management.

As many as 32% of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. But with that flexibility comes a unique set of challenges.

Businesses will need to adjust their performance management systems and determine what benefits the casual workforce will be eligible for.

The increased demand for independent contractors, greater digitisation and automation, and remote work-enablement create great opportunities for businesses to enjoy cost savings, yield greater productivity, and enhance resilience.

Ultimately, these work trends in the Future of Work (FoW) can also serve as catalysts for enterprise initiatives that increase employee wellbeing. But the onus of this doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of the private sector.

Governments and their economic policies should be mindful to mitigate the risks of unequal outcomes, ensuring that businesses of all sizes can benefit from subsidies and grants aimed at helping SMEs transition as seamlessly as possible to the new status quo.

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