COVID-19 had a profound impact on the Canadian workforce. Millions of working people suddenly found themselves working from home, millions more found themselves out of work completely, and still others, deemed essential workers, found themselves coping with unprecedented demand created by the pandemic. The only certainty amid this year of upheaval is our world of work has been upended and there is no returning to a pre-COVID-19 normal. With vaccines slowly rolling out across the country, lockdown measures are beginning to relax. Companies are reassessing previous operating models, creating recovery strategies and planning to cautiously bring employees back to the office. Pandemic-fatigued Canadians are filled with trepidation about employment, the new workplace ecosystem and expectations in a post-COVID world. To ease the transition back to work, companies need to clearly communicate expectations for employee engagement, along with changes to office policies and practices including an approach to safely interact with coworkers, customers and suppliers.
According to the latest reports from industry experts, 2021 will be another year of transition. Here are four of the more prominent trends reflecting the changing wants and needs of the working world:
Work-from-home (WFH) options are here to stay
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak many conventional businesses were reluctant to adopt the work-from-home (WFH) model. Once the pandemic struck, mandatory lockdowns and closures forced a shift in working patterns and the WFH model was quickly embraced. As the pandemic wanes, WFH employees are hesitant to return to the workplace, citing potential health risks associated with shared open office spaces. WFH has also given them an opportunity to create a better work/life balance by eliminating the daily commute and fixed office hours. Employers are also recognizing the benefits of the WFH model, including reduced operating costs, the ability to maintain a large workforce on a tighter budget, along with increased productivity – happier employees with less distractions are simply more productive.
Hybrid working model - blending WFH, remote work and in-office options
This hybrid working model combines work-from-home, remote work (work from anywhere), with in-office work and is growing in popularity. Blending the best of each option, the hybrid model is a “location and time flexible” option that balances the needs of the business with an employee’s work-life integration. Whether employees continue to work-from-home, work remotely (at Starbucks or at the cottage), or at the office will depend on their role and the type of work they perform.
Video conferences & collaboration transforming the working world
Video conferences have become an everyday part of how we conduct business and have fully integrated into the working world. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, WebEx, Skype and other video communication tools, such as Slack and Trello enable collaboration with colleagues, customers and suppliers within the new WFH lifestyle. Undoubtedly, these video platforms have transformed how we connect and communicate and have become a dominant work trend. Companies are also using these platforms to host business events, interview and onboard incoming talent, and upskill and retrain employees for a post-COVID environment.
Digital transformation is a dominant trend
In a post-COVID world, employees can expect to see greater emphasis on digital transformation. Office and workflow automation improve speed and efficiency. Mobile applications, digital signage, visual process checks, office sensor solutions and room scheduling services will help ensure employees follow safety protocols and precautions. The emphasis on digital applications, white-collar automation and other digitally driven enhancements, such as cloud-based systems, to interact with customers, manage data, deliver services will remain a dominant trend.
Because every company is different, mastering the new normal involves a solution-focused approach to meet the needs of the business while creating a safe, productive and efficient workplace for employees. A coordinated effort between employer and employee is required to successfully navigate this new workplace as we learn to embrace new models of working together.