Source: Baskin Strategies, LLC | Reen L. Baskin | March 27, 2020

How will the Workforce change in the Future?

For years we have encountered business leaders with a certain mentality: “We don’t want our people working from home, because we’re not certain they’re actually working.” We usually counter this way of thinking by first, highlighting that some job functions can be performed at home while others cannot, and second, by emphasizing the importance of performance metrics and measuring outcomes, versus hours spent in the office.

Ready or not, here we are. We have a huge population of companies that were forced to send employees to work from home almost overnight. We know that many of these companies were prepared, having the proper technology, policies, performance metrics and training in place. But we also suspect that most were not.

While we are hopeful that some sense of normalcy will return to our working lives over the next couple of months, we can’t help but wonder, how is this new norm going to change our workforce in the future? Having implemented work from home for some time now, we anticipate a few different scenarios.

Flexible Work Arrangements will become Desirable by Employees

One scenario is that work from home, or at least some type of flexibility, is going to be greatly desired by employees. Articles over the last several years have placed employee flexibility near the top of the list for what employees desire most from their company. After all, many job functions require a mix of team collaboration and heads-down, focused work time, which is often hard to get in the office. For the job functions that can work from home, productivity will undoubtedly increase. And as business leaders observe their success, will flexible work arrangements become the norm?

Employees will Virtually Gather

We’re fairly confident “social distancing” is going to become known as the phrase of the year. But physically distancing oneself does not apply to virtual connectivity. In fact, going forward, virtual
connectivity may be seen as a safer way to team, collaborate and learn from one another in addition to keeping employees feeling happy, engaged and a part of the team. Chances are, employees who didn’t utilize remote conferencing technologies even a couple of months ago do today and will continue within the following weeks. Will business leaders begin to see this as a way to keep employees culturally connected with their organization?

Lack of Company Preparation will halt Productivity

Another scenario is that companies realize just how unprepared they truly were. As we analyze an organization’s job functions and workflow processes, we often report that, “Yes, this position can truly be done from anywhere, but there are certain barriers standing in the way.” Sometimes those barriers are related to technology, such as employee utilization of desktops versus laptops, unsecure devices with confidential data, or a lack of connectivity. Other barriers have been the utilization of paper heavy processes that have not yet been converted to digital. Not to mention the lack of a company policy, procedures, and training materials, all of which are the backbone for any supervisor managing a remote workforce and for any employee learning to work from home. Many of these barriers will lead to a lack of productivity, and I imagine many business leaders will take steps to remove those barriers.

Dependents

Yes dependents. As many of us are being thrust into the work from home world, so are those little people that seem to rely on us for their every need. The reality is, in the Telework and Remote Policies we write, caring for any type of dependent during work hours is not allowed. But schools are closed, this is our new reality and many employees are forced to make this work. Caring for others while focusing on work responsibilities is challenging for those with even the greatest multitasking skill set. Caretaking while performing a job function will likely remain prohibited within a flexible work arrangement. But will business leaders allow for more flexibilities around dependent care than in the past?

One thing is for sure, work from home can be done. Employees are resilient. If performance goals and expectations for work outcomes are properly in place, communicated and being met, we will see success. Having had this experience, will business leaders of the future implement flexible work arrangements as a part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy, or continue its use on a sporadic basis? When normalcy returns, the conversation amongst business leaders will begin. How will the workforce change in the future?