The pandemic has caused major shifts in everyone's lives. Due to it being highly contagious and having a higher mortality rate than Ebola, COVID-19 forced us to stay inside to keep each other safe, preventing the spread of the virus and overwhelming our health sector. Hence, we are more reliant on technology than ever to communicate, collaborate and to complete tasks. After almost a year of working from home, this has severely affected everyone’s perception of the traditional 9-5 grind, proclaiming it no longer effective. In the future there is a big probability for companies to recalibrate to a more flexible and hybrid office set-up.
First let us explore why the traditional 9-5 grind is no longer effective. Before the pandemic started, we would hear a few coworkers complain about how office hours are suffocating. People talk about how their job is burning them out and they wish for a more flexible work schedule. The first reason why it has fallen out of fashion is because humans are complex creatures and not robots. Different people have different paces, some people are morning people who can get up early and are most productive when the sun is shining. Meanwhile there are night owls who are most productive when it is dark out. There are also some employees who are sprinters who can finish tasks right away and there are joggers who take their time when finishing their tasks. This pandemic we further realized how different our pace is compared to other coworkers and that there are no one size fits all for productivity. By limiting ourselves to the traditional 9-5 grind we realized that we are just boxing and burning ourselves out in the process. According to Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack who conducted a study of 4700 workers about the new normal set-up and that the overwhelming majority (72%) wants a hybrid office setup while only 12% wants to be back in the office. The key takeaway here is that managers and bosses should provide workers flexible work setup.
Why is flexibility an important key in surviving in the new normal? According to Ellen Ernst Kossek and Kelly Hannum of Center of Creative Leadership, when managers provide flexibility workers are more productive because they are in control of their time and pace. When employees are in control, they feel more empowered. Giving them choices, they can easily blend their schedule to the different social roles like partner, parent, and employee to what works for them best. They can create a work-life balance that does not burn them out, allowing them to prioritize essential tasks and have a life. Allowing them to delegate their own time they can better focus on the tasks at hand by choosing the time where they are most productive.
Lastly, how does a manager set up an effective hybrid work set up? First, they have to create a mindset of quality oriented rather than strict deadlines. What is toxic or unmotivating about the office set up is that the office hours force workers to be productive even if you do not feel like it. This state of inertia can cause productivity to dip and the results to be mediocre. Hence when there are no strict rules and workers can do things on their own, they are productive, focused, and happier. This results in better quality work. Next is the maximization of technology for communication. Digital platforms are crucial in making sure there is a clear line of communication between managers and employees. This greatly reduces the time needed for meetings and it is an opportunity for fast communication. However, at times it feels impersonal and distant, a good remedy to this is using casual language and creating a more personalized response. Lastly a greater awareness of people’s limitations and different roles and responsibilities, some have more social roles to fill than others. Being a working parent in this pandemic is hard because they have to finish chores, catch deadlines and facilitate their children’s online learning. There is also a problem with internet connectivity, not all places have stable and fast Wi-Fi. What managers have to do is create a more understanding and caring work culture. That way workers are not stressed out and would not cause more problems.
The pandemic and the hybrid set up is the catalyst of borderless teamwork. Everyone right now is using digital platforms to communicate and collaborate. This pandemic shattered the myth that remote work or work from home is not as effective or productive as reporting into the office. After this pandemic, global and virtual teams will be the new norm. There will be more incentive for borderless recruitment because companies will be actively diversifying their team, through offshoring or outsourcing solutions. This globalization of firms and the diversifying of teams will be the next normal and will help keep organizations their competitive edge. This manifest through each employee having different backgrounds and perspective, employees can learn from each other through discourse thus when discussing with one another they better understand different perspective and world views. This will greatly increase problem solving skills and generation of creative solutions. Diversifying is also helpful in increasing the firm’s reputation. Having a diverse team shows that the organization is open, understanding, and empathetic. Thus, attracts a big talent pool of future contenders or employees and it also attracts a wider market. The firm can now easily penetrate markets from other countries knowing that their staff are knowledgeable of its culture.
Working with the new working hours is hard at first because it was something that is new and different. After almost a year of working from home we should expect a different set up once the pandemic slowly dies down. The future is all about flexibility of working hours and making sure workers are productive and focus on their own pace and their own time. After that, the trend of global and virtual teams is right around the corner. It is expected that this next phase of globalization will consider more offshore and outsourcing solutions. Diverse and borderless teams are the secret ingredient in remaining competitive in a much smaller world.
Fantania, T. (2020, August 24). Working in the new normal: The future is here and there is no going back. Chartered Management Institute. Retrieved February 8, 2021, from https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-and-insights/blog/working-in-the-new-normal-the-future-is-here-there-is-no-going-back/
Kossek, E. E., & Hannum, K. (n.d.). How Flexibility Can Boost Employee Productivity. Center for Creative Leadership. Retrieved February 8, 2020, from https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/how-flexibility-can-boost-employee-productivity/
Moving beyond remote: Workplace transformation in the wake of Covid-19. (2020, October 7). Slack. Retrieved February 8, 2021, from https://slack.com/intl/en-ph/blog/collaboration/workplace-transformation-in-the-wake-of-covid-19