In a world impacted by COVID, the business workplace has changed significantly! Business pundits proclaim with near unanimity that we will not return to pre-COVID ways of working. So, what will be the forces driving change within organisations? Which areas will be most vulnerable for impact in the ‘new normal?’
At the outset, we can discern a clear roadmap in many organisations to unlock the value of technology and innovation to transform their business. As organisations take stock of the pandemic’s impact, let us look at five key drivers will shape the future of work … and the future workplace!
1. Banking on digitisation
There will be a strong push for digital transformation in 2022, per Gartner, with most organisations realizing the importance of promoting digital workplaces post COVID-19. This will require competence, resourcefulness, and initiative.Business operations will bank on organizational resilience, including the ability to scale production and processes, to drive performance.
Collaboration and communication tools to bolster cloud functionality will be critical in the future. Examples of smart workspace technologies include IoT, integrated workplace management systems, virtual workspace, and more. Companies with essential digital capabilities will cope better going forward, even as the key challenge for organizations will be on accelerating their digital investments and bridging the digital gap.
2.Driving change with AI
Artificial Intelligence will play a key role in bridging the digital chasm. According to IDC, by 2022, 45% of repetitive tasks in large enterprises will be automated through ‘digital co-workers’ led by AI, robotics, and Intelligent Process Automation, thereby driving greater human-machine collaboration. AI/ML will be integral to communication networks.
The merger of AI and Big Data has changed technology, enabling the processing of large data in a short span. While the challenge for many organisations is that AI projects face scalability and governance issues,investing in a robust AI engineering strategy will ensure the efficiency of AI models while delivering the full value of AI investments. This will also require bringing the workforce up to speed on new-age technologies.
3.Test for employee scalability
IDC predicts the socio-economic impact of COVID will drive growth of the ‘digital co-worker’ marketplace.To build the post-pandemic workforce, there will be less focus on roles than on the skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage. In short, the emphasis will shift to outputs rather than inputs as impact-driven work will rule the roost!
The world is changing, along with people and technologies. As architects of change, a scalable staff has the flexibility to adjust and accommodate fast-evolving changes that businesses will encounter in the future. To enable this agility, companies should aim to successfully intersect all change drivers– from technology to employees to markets – by driving a holistic and inclusive process of remote and on-premise employees,rather than operate in silos.
4.Hybrid and in-house… connected!
Research on the future of work has found that three-quarters (or 75%) of organizations expect 30% or more of their employees to be working remotely now, and over a quarter expect over 70% of staff to work remotely going forward. A majority of companies say remote working has transformed performance for the better.
The focus will be on ‘designing work for well-being’ – which means enhancing the level of authority that workers have over their own work–allowing them to work at a time and place where they feel most creative and effective. As remote workers show more productivity– and this number is expected to grow –it cuts through the fears that remote work isn’t working in the long run.
5. Employee experience to the fore
The Black Swan event has changed organisations’ perception of employee experience. As limited human interaction increases stress, a culture of learning and sharing has prevailed. The focus will be on ‘total experience,’defined by Gartner as combining the customer experience, employee experience and user experience to transform a business outcome.
In these difficult times, a company’s‘purpose’ and its contribution to society have become key to employee engagement. As COVID-19 spotlights on R&D and innovation, top corporate are opening their hearts – and wallets – to promote research in pandemics. Nothing helps employees more than helping others, and organisations will make employee happiness core to their overall D&I focus. In short, the focus now will be on the employee, and not solely their contribution to work.
The future workplace – a change for better or worse?
In the ‘new normal,’operations that provide competitive advantage will depend on organizational resilience, the ability to scale, and heightened expectations around service and value. We will see purpose-led organizations leveraging technology in a sustainable way to benefit clients, employees, and the society at large.
COVID-19 has ushered in a business transformation with innovative and collaborative working styles. The future of work and the workplace will focus on employee well-being, with high emphasis on training and reskilling, and on sustainable development. Nothing will stop this, and like all great forces of the past, this too will change the world forever. Undoubtedly for the better!
Welcome to Workplace 2.0!
(Arul Kumaran Paramanandam is Chief Operating Officer at Capgemini India and the views expressed in this article are his own)