The future of work will be more remote, digital, healthier and safer: Dan Schawbel, Workplace Intelligence

social media jobs online

Dan Schawbel is an expert on the future of work and virtual workplaces and author of Back to Human. As the managing partner at Workplace Intelligence, an HR research and consulting firm, he has done research studies with MNCs like Oracle, American Express and Randstad. At a time when work from home is the new norm, what are the best practices to lead and manage virtual teams? He discusses the new workplace in an email interview with Malini Goyal. Excerpts:

With work from home (WFH) becoming the norm, what is the future of work and what will be the challenges it throws up?

The future of work will be more remote, digital, healthier and safer. Covid-19 is the gasoline that has fuelled the workplace programmes, policies and procedures that exist but weren’t widely adopted such as remote work, employee assistance and virtual learning.

First, many remote workers will continue to work remotely in a post-Covid workplace because they prefer it, it saves their company’s money, allows for flexibility and shortens commute time. The rise in remote work, combined with the effects of the pandemic and recession, will coincide with people relocating to cheaper, less dense locations. Workers no longer need to be located where the jobs are, no longer need to interview in-person and no longer need to abide by the standard nine-to-five workday.

Second, workplaces will be digitally transformed — from apps and robots that will clean offices, book conference rooms and perform many of the tasks that low-skilled workers did pre-Covid. Companies are investing more money in automation during this pandemic because revenues are down, yet the cost of labour is high. At the same time, there is still a skills gap, with millions of unfilled, high-skilled jobs. In response, there will be a lot of pressure on governments, companies, schools and individuals to invest in learning and development to transition the workers who filled low-skilled jobs into high-skilled jobs.

Third, pre-Covid, hundreds of millions of people globally were suffering from mental health conditions, which have been made worse as a side effect of the pandemic. Social distancing, self-isolation, burnout, reduced hours, furloughs and job loss are severely impacting workers’ mental health. People feel anxious and depressed when they don’t have human contact, can’t provide for themselves or their families and have an uncertain future. The increase in mental health issues has caused companies like Starbucks, Volvo and others to invest more in their employee assistance programmes, offering employees wellness apps and even free access to therapists.

Finally, safety at workplace will be critical. The post-Covid office will have some important features like hand sanitiser, masks, robots that disinfect rooms, virus-testing kits, social distancing in conference rooms and elevators, and closed office plans.

What does all this mean for leaders, managers and executives?
The biggest WFH challenges are that it is harder to create a full employee experience without a physical office space, leaders have to give up control, it is harder to manage and maintain trust and there is lack of socialisation. While remote workers benefit from flexibility and lower commuting costs, they spend slightly more time working, experience burnout and feel like they need to overcommunicate. WFH makes employees feel more isolated, lonely and burnt out, which leads to mental health issues, lower productivity and shorter tenure rates. Other obstacles include time zone differences, interruptions, keeping morale up and effectively managing time and projects.

How do you build teams, culture and camaraderie in a virtually-driven workplace where teams work remotely?
If you want to build teams, culture and camaraderie in a virtually-driven workplace, you need to empower your co-workers to lead meetings, have the appropriate mix of video and audio calls so they don’t get burned out, set expectations upfront, overcommunicate, promote a sense of belonging, define goals and accommodate their needs and schedules. What doesn’t work well is to only have one scheduled weekly meeting, not trusting your teammates, not involving them in key conversations, failing to recognise their work enough and ignoring their career goals and ambitions.

Socialisation at workplace and water cooler conversations are important to build bonds. How do we do it in a WFH setting?
Side conversations are much harder to replicate when everyone is working remotely, and while Zoom offers ‘breakout rooms’ to try to encourage these conversations, I believe the best solution is picking up the phone. Calling a co-worker with purpose, meaning and intent is more intimate and can spark new ideas, the kind of ideas that might not be shared in a larger team meeting. My research shows that the best work relationships are formed when employees talk about personal-related interests and activities in a non-work setting. One way managers can capitalise on this is to have a social hour every Friday where you can talk about anything you want with no pressure or penalty. Another thing you can do is to play a virtual game together as a team-building activity.

One of the toughest things about WFH is loneliness. Is there a way to deal with it better?
There are millions of workers right now experiencing loneliness. Despite all the technology tools available, they can’t replace face-to-face conversations. All of those dopamine hits from using technology devices don’t add up to healthier and stronger relationships. The best way to deal with loneliness is to check in with your co-workers from time to time to ensure they are doing well. Make them feel like you are thinking of them, and that you care without any ulterior motive. Eventually, in a post-Covid workplace, there will be time reserved for in-person meetings, which are critical for loneliness relief.

Source link