The ‘new normal” – a phrase that will define the working world in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since lockdown, barely a day has gone by that it hasn’t appeared in the press in one form or another. Already the term has been bandied about so much that it bears little meaning for anyone who hears it.
But the way we work has changed. Dramatically. In April, HRLocker undertook a vigorous study of 650 CHROs and CEOs, across the UK and Ireland, to better understand how the Pandemic had impacted their organisations and their people, addressing key human resources challenges and the measures they had taken to overcome them.
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Not disregarding the significant societal and economic hardship of the Pandemic, our research found that the lockdown and the shift to remote working have actually yielded a number of positive, if not unexpected, benefits. 63% of organisations have reported that transitioning to remote working has positively impacted productivity, 38% claim organisational culture has improved and 42% say employee morale is up.
As Twitter has already demonstrated, a sizeable number of organisations are looking to dual-working models, where employees split their time between working from the office and home.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of organisations plan to encourage employees to work remotely more often after the lockdown, with 28% planning to significantly increase remote working.
For most, the long-term plan is to introduce some form of dual working, where time is split between working from the office and home/ a remote location.
While the cost savings benefits of remote working models, such as reduced rents and travel subsidies, were a significant consideration for organisations (56%), the main reason for this switch to dual working is to create a better work/ life balance for employees (78%).
Cognisant of the disruption caused by the lockdown, survey respondents stated that managing employee stress has been their greatest internal challenge for 40%.
Addressing this, 86% of businesses are taking measures to monitor and improve employee wellbeing, with the most popular measures including:
The transition to remote working brings with it its own set of unique challenges. To yield all the benefits remote working has to offer, organisations must promote practices and behaviours that align, engage and encourage their workforce.
Prior to the Pandemic, one of the greatest hurdles to digital transformation was employee resistance. Fear of being made redundant by AI, inadequate training and so forth acted as a barrier to tech-enabled business practices.
However, with Lockdown, both employers and employees have embraced technology. In our survey, 84% of respondents said they had utilised technology to manage employees during the pandemic. Internal communications applications, such as Zoom and Teams, have been by far the most popular technologies, with 92% of respondents stating they use them. However, other software tools have been adopted to support HR functions, including training & development (45%), project management (37%) and time management (27%).
With both businesses and employees far more willing to adopt new technologies, we are likely to see a shift in the types of skills being sought, with a greater focus being placed on up-skilling and re-skilling workers for the digital age.
It’s crazy to think it took a pandemic for us to realise the multiple benefits of dual working. Beyond the initial indicators in this report, dual working can support innovation and collaboration, increase creativity and reduce unconscious bias. I believe companies that embrace the shift to this healthier, more efficient way of working, will emerge stronger and more successful in the long run.