As companies explain plans for the future of work, the bumps remain

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Even as the world continues to grapple with waves of COVID-19 and delayed vaccine adoption, most companies remain in the planning stages of office reopening.

In the more than 18 months of the pandemic, corporate plans to throw open office doors have been repeatedly thwarted, with most organizations postponing planned reopening dates, many until next year. Despite the hiccups, most companies are slowly realizing that a hybrid workplace – some employees in the office, some at home – will become a permanent reality.

But some companies refuse to move, insisting on returning to the pre-COVID-19 workplace. For example, Hearst’s editorial division – which runs newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and magazines like Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping – is forcing a return to office. In response, the workers last week filed a charge for unfair labor practices with the National Office for Labor Relations.

While some business leaders seem reluctant to evolve their business model for fear it will put the business at risk, new data shows that going back to the old ways is riskier than reinventing the office culture, according to research firm Gartner.

With an abundance of job opportunities and a shortage of manpower, most organizations simply cannot make such demands, according to researchers who say workers are now more focused than ever on improving their work-related balance. and private life.

According to Gartner, only about 15% of employees want to work full-time in an office environment. If an organization were to go back to a full on-site deal, it would risk losing up to 39% of its workforce, according to a 2021 Gartner Hybrid Workplace survey released in September.

“[Employees] in general they really took a step back and re-evaluated their life priorities and how they think about work, health, family and other things, “said Graham Waller, a distinguished vice president of research at Gartner.” join in that there are plenty of opportunities in this war for talent, especially in the US, there are some of the largest record numbers of job openings.

“Some organizations, including Google, say you can now work from anywhere,” Waller added.

Particularly in tech-related industries, employers now offer higher salaries, signing bonuses, and job flexibility as they strive to meet hiring needs.

M. Victor Janulaitis, CEO of management consulting firm Janco Associates, said employees who work from home are not happy with the prospect of having to go back to commuting. “Dropout rates appear to be higher among employees who are told to return to the office and follow vaccination warrants.”

(Janco regularly conducts employee surveys, but has yet to complete the last on the issue of returning to physical offices.)

Even without new data, Janulaitis anecdotally observed some key industry trends. While on the whole worker productivity has grown significantly during the pandemic, the forced switch to remote work 18 months ago hampered some commercial activities.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs) were not met by many IT functions. Waiting and waiting times were (and remain) lengthened. There was limited visibility into the staffing requirements for service and help desk. “The barking dogs and loud background noises affected the ‘professional image’ of the service counters,” Janulaitis said.

“With many IT professionals working from home over the past few months, many of the employees did not understand the training opportunities they had. Before the pandemic, the office environment prompted many professionals to seek training,” Janulaitis said. “That didn’t happen as much in the home business environment.”

Most organizations today, up to 85%, currently operate with a hybrid business model. The exceptions tend to involve the workforce where physical presence is needed, such as brick and mortar stores and manufacturing plants. Some technical positions also require workers to be on site to address data center issues, such as security and hardware issues or upgrades.

Even in implementing a hybrid workplace, organizations should remain flexible and not insist that employees are on-site for a set number of days each week or on specific days of the week, according to Waller.

“Their plan was to have people come three days a week, like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and get such a big push back from employees, even in the form of attrition,” Waller said. “We are already seeing cases of this. Many organizations are changing and evolving their plans. “

This year, 83% of businesses expect an increase in customer demand for digital products and services, and 65% of board members want to accelerate digital transformation, signaling a willingness to finance and invest in technologies that enable hybrid capabilities, according to Gartner.

Organizations, however, shouldn’t stop there. They should also evolve their thinking about employee autonomy, allowing them to choose when to enter the office or stay at a distance. Employees involved in “upside down work” – work that doesn’t require face-to-face interaction with colleagues – can do it from anywhere.

Waller said executives have a unique opportunity to break with a position-centered work model designed around industrial-age constraints and redesign work around a human-centered model to secure digital age talent and better business results. “Don’t just focus on how much time they spend in the office and at home, but think about how to reinvent the work itself based on the people. Location is a secondary issue. “

According to the Gartner survey, for knowledge workers transitioning from office-centric to human-centric design:

■ 44% indicated a reduction in worker fatigue;

45% indicated that their intention to remain in a company would increase;

■ 28% indicated that they had increased their performance.

For example, there is a shift in managerial thinking from centralized decisions to network-based peer-to-peer decision making that reduces bottlenecks and saves time in a hybrid environment. As hybrid work continues to evolve, removing the traditional managerial role can lead to greater efficiency.

According to Gartner, by 2024, 30% of business teams will be leaderless due to the self-directed and hybrid nature of work.

According to Gartner, doing it right requires experimentation, learning, and iteration. But the result could be better workplace performance, innovation and equity.

In some industries, the gains made towards digital transformation during the pandemic may be lost as the world returns to a new normal. For example, the use of telemedicine, or connecting with remote healthcare workers, has jumped 38 times from the pre-COVID-19 baseline. according to McKinsey & Company, a management consulting company. There are some who believe these gains could evaporate as insurance companies may require more in-person visits once the pandemic subsides.

“Something like healthcare is driven so much by business models, especially reimbursement between providers and payers. In many cases, I’m sure they will go back to what they used to be, sometimes because of the vested interest of different players in the ecosystem, “Waller said.” So, I’m sure there will be a retreat. The question is: how much and will we find the weak point in the hybrid model? “

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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