Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation. The pandemic is having a significant impact on how we collaborate, where we work and the employer-employee relationship with respect to remote job performance. How has work changed during the global pandemic, and what will it look like in the future?
Until recently, it’s been assumed that physical workspaces promoted employee productivity and collaboration. That notion is being tested, but it’s no longer true. With the world’s largest working-from-home (WFH) experiment underway, we’re already seeing how remote team structures are being challenged and forcing companies to become more agile. Moreover, productivity data on remote teams might have exceeded expectations altogether. According to McKinsey, 80% of people enjoy WFH. In addition, 41% feel more productive than before, and 28% are as productive.
A major factor is the way employees manage their time. WFH saves immense time across various activities both small and large, including getting dressed, eating lunch, engaging in watercooler talk, having last-minute meetings and, one of the most notable, commuting. It’s estimated that the average one-way commuter time is 26.1 minutes — that’s roughly five hours a week. And if you live in a large metropolis, that nearly doubles! Eliminating the daily commute in the U.S. has saved more than 89 million hours each week, which is equivalent to 44.5 million full workdays since the start of the pandemic.
Upwork reported the decrease in daily commutes since the pandemic has saved $90 billion. Individuals who commute by car have saved more than $2,000 since mid-March.
These small time savings add up, and reducing wasteful time is empowering employees to focus more on valuable work and organize their time differently. This is cost-effective for employers, too. The remote working model can help companies move faster, allocate resources more effectively, and leverage collaboration tools and other technologies more efficiently to keep everyone on track in their digital workspaces. This can have negative implications on employees, though. The lines of home and work life have become blurred. Some WFH employees may find the days seem longer — and they’re not wrong.
A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed emails and meetings from 3.1 million people across 16 global cities. It reported that the duration of the average workday increased by 8.2%, or 48.5 minutes, with an increase in emails. However, employees may not have worked continuously throughout this period and may have created more flexible schedules to account for daily interruptions.
Companies will need to keep an eye on how these numbers change and find a way to keep employees motivated. Harvard Business School found that at least 16% of American employees will remain remote after Covid-19. This would have major implications for policymakers, companies and employees and could cause a powerful shift in workplace norms.
What will work look like in the foreseeable future, and what should organizations do to accommodate those changes?
The Role Of The Office Will Change
With more employees working in remote locations, organizations will need to reevaluate their real estate portfolios. They will likely have a combination of owned office space for in-person collaboration or major team-building events, but with more dispersed workers, on-demand and flexible coworking spaces will be a cost-effective option.
We’re already seeing this transition as major tech companies like Facebook are enabling their employees to work from home and paying salaries that fit local living costs. The headquarters aren’t going anywhere now, but their role might change.
Employees Will Want Work-From-Anywhere Options
Now that working remotely has become the new norm, and more people enjoy flexible routines that provide a better work-life balance, employees will likely seek organizations that provide the option to work remotely. For baby boomers, money was a major benefit. The next generations will prioritize flexibility with remote work options, cost savings from daily commutes and progressive organizations that are purpose-driven with CSR initiatives.
Culture Will Need To Thrive Digitally, Too
With teams distributed across cities and time zones, businesses will need to focus on attracting and retaining talent digitally. The emphasis will be placed on creating culture and enhancing healthy engagement among employees to achieve desired business outcomes. We’re social creatures, and work has to get done. Camaraderie plays a big part in that; without physical workspaces, this presents an enormous challenge. Organizations will need to start measuring culture to help employees thrive in the digital workspace.
Employees Will Have To Upskill On Their Own
Not only are our environments changing with technology at the helm, but we are undergoing what the 21st century was to the Industrial Revolution. We’re in the inception of a technological revolution, rife with AI and automation that will cause job obsolescence.
McKinsey discovered that 50% of global job activities could theoretically be automated; that could mean 400-800 million people could be displaced globally due to automation by 2030. Now 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. Those entering the workforce will have a higher probability of an irrelevant skill set tomorrow.
As organizations look at cost-saving measures or get more comfortable with remote workers, the onus will be put on the employee to evolve with their position; if they don’t, there is a real chance they could become obsolete. The competition for employment will be fiercer with a remote workforce. Candidates will no longer just be competing with people in their city, but from every corner of the globe.
Covid-19 is accelerating a digital transformation at scale and the world over. Leadership will need to be more agile than ever before and offer flexible employee packages to attract the right talent. The traditional role of HQs will change, and on-demand coworking spaces might aid in giving remote workers a reprieve from their home office spaces.
Companies will be challenged to find new ways of attracting, retaining and managing talent from afar. Collaboration, flexibility and culture will be top of mind. New tools will enter workflows and demand employees evolve with them.