With spring just around the corner and rising hope that the vaccination rollout will eventually bring some relief to restrictions, it is time to start thinking about how the world of work should move forward. While the pandemic forced us to adopt new ways of working, we have learned some valuable lessons in the last year that should not be quickly forgotten. In fact, some of these new strategies should continue long after the crisis subsides as we have come to the realization that the workforce, the workplace and work itself will never be the same. Here are three concepts to consider as you plan for the future.
Automate: replace people with technology
This may sound controversial and even counter-intuitive as most people have taken a protectionist stance regarding the perceived destruction of jobs by technology. But the Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum predicts that technology will actually create 58 million more jobs than it destroys by 2022, which suggests that avoiding automation would actually hold people back from new opportunities. The work that automation and technology replace tends to be the rote tasks that most people don’t find engaging or fulfilling. The outcome of the pandemic-inspired collaboration between people and technology is a more efficient and productive organization, and more satisfied employees who can focus on meaningful work.
Adapt: stop managing people
In his recently released book, Believe in People, Charles Koch frequently describes the ideal relationship between corporate leadership and front-line employees as one of “empowerment”. People will fulfill their virtually unlimited potential to perform when management trusts them to do so and empowers them with the right tools. The old-school, command-and-control model of management isn’t up to the rigors of the remote work model. It depends too much on strictly-defined roles and outdated assumptions about workers’ discipline, motivation, and commitment. Instead, businesses have discovered that providing their people access to the data, tools, and technologies to work remotely and giving them the opportunity to make a contribution outside of their assigned job duties can help the entire organization be more flexible and innovative.
Actualize: redefine work-life balance
A FlexJobs/Mental Health America survey in late 2020 found that 75% of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% claiming to have experienced it during the pandemic. In other words, despite working remotely—with all the flexibility it affords—people still found it difficult to juggle their competing responsibilities. The new paradigm essentially erased the line between home life and work life. If a significant portion of work can now be done anytime, anywhere, by almost anyone, employers and governments will need to rethink how to support this more fluid model. Work-life balance has turned into work-life integration.