The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed workplaces and their dynamics. Millions lost their jobs, switched to working at home, or returned to working physically with significant changes to adapt to.
In addition, the pandemic fast-tracked automation, innovation, and digitalization. In the midst of abrupt changes, employers faced the challenge of ensuring a smooth transition and positive outcomes for their companies.
However, the transition to remote work has not been easy. Many employees complained about the blurring of boundaries between work and home life. And the failure to juggle home and job demands have led to heightened frustrations.
Another common problem was poorly timed or endless meetings that interfered with one’s ability to stay productive. For essential workers, the increased demand resulted in high-stress levels.
On the flip side, many people enjoy working remotely. The added control with fewer distractions, elimination of the daily commute, and being away from a hostile environment have made remote working ideal for these individuals.
All in all, COVID-19 has taught people that workplaces don’t have to be the way they were before. They can change, and the best way to manage the change is by redesigning the workplace and learning to adapt.
Below are the ways the COVID-19 pandemic changed the concept of workplaces.
Increased Use of Video Conferencing Tools
Workers were forced to stay home at the height of the pandemic. However, this didn’t mean businesses came to a halt. Companies that adopted the remote work model could keep in touch with their team members and clients using video conferencing platforms.
As a result, video conferencing platforms like Zoom grew enormously. Many businesses took to these cloud-based platforms to the point that they became a regular part of their work lives. Managers and team members have become comfortable using video conferencing for meetings and business presentations.
The benefits offered by the digital workplace led to a major shift toward the usage of such tools. More organizations started to see the value of video conferencing compared to traditional methods. Hence, more workplaces will continue using video conferencing platforms in situations where the conventional medium may not be feasible or practical. And this outlook continues to be appreciated in workplaces.
Apart from video conferencing, video job interviews became the norm for talent acquisition and recruitment. Employers conduct virtual interviews, either live or pre-recorded, to assess if an applicant is a good fit for the company. Although video interviews were previously used, they’ve grown in popularity because they’re convenient, saving time, money, and effort for both parties.
In addition, video conferencing has changed the way companies hold seminars and events. Given the restrictions on social gatherings, video conferencing offered a safe, convenient, and cost-effective solution — webinars and virtual events. It was the ideal alternative as paranoia ran high, keeping people from leaving their homes.
However, while video conferencing has many benefits, it shouldn’t replace all in-person meetings. Face-to-face interactions have distinct values and will continue to be significant in the workplace.
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Need for Enhanced Cybersecurity
The pandemic has compelled companies to change how they communicate and do business. However, rapid digitization and switching to remote working environments came with security concerns, particularly concerning data protection.
The lack of data protection became a significant security concern among business leaders. This prompted the cybersecurity sector to respond to the problem at hand. As a result, there was a dramatic improvement in the quality of cybersecurity services.
Additionally, the prevalence of remote work continues to drive the need for robust cybersecurity strategies. The more people choose to work remotely, the more protective measures or safeguards should be devoted to vulnerable networks.
As cyber-attacks become increasingly sophisticated, more companies are inclined to invest in advanced cybersecurity services.
Increased E-Learning in Workplaces
Previously, team members attended workshops and seminars for professional development. But due to the pandemic, most organizations shifted to e-learning courses. These online courses helped facilitate continued learning and advancement. Consequently, more people became familiar with virtual classes, seminars, and training during the COVID-19 restrictions, making e-learning integral to workplaces.
The adaptation of e-learning may be attributed to continuous improvements in technology. Technological innovations have also made e-learning more accessible in recent years, enabling companies to reduce team member training costs.
Hybrid and Remote Work Models
Many professionals found themselves adjusting to working from home due to the pandemic. While some companies readily embraced the transition to the remote work model, the nature of other businesses requires a physical office setup. For others, a hybrid work model was the ideal arrangement.
Nevertheless, most companies have settled for the option that ensures their operations run smoothly. However, it wasn’t an easy transition, as remote work models came with many challenges. The most noticeable one was the lack of work-ready homes.
Another problem was insufficient technology, most notably a reliable internet connection. But after some time, people found ways to create a work environment and complete daily tasks without going to a physical office.
People quickly adapted to the circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, adopting hybrid or remote work models. Notwithstanding companies’ needs and preferences, you can expect the hybrid and remote models to keep growing in popularity.
Redefined Physical Workspace
With the remote work model, home offices became a familiar fixture in many homes. Keeping such remote workspaces well-organized, clutter-free, and secluded is essential to help you concentrate on your assigned tasks while working from home.
On the other hand, safety measures, such as sanitation protocols, temperature checks, and social distancing, were enforced by employers keen on ensuring team members’ safety as in-person reporting resumed in many workplaces post-COVID-19.
By enforcing these precautions, employers have redefined the physical workspace for the better. Another way the pandemic redefined the workplace is by making it more collaborative. After being isolated for an extended time, many team members look forward to social interaction and creative collaboration.
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Culture of Trust and Transparency
The pandemic pushed people to be more supportive of each other when faced with uncertainty. Who would have thought that social distancing could make everyone closer? Relinquishing some control on the part of the managers has helped create a culture of trust and transparency in the workplace.
Managers and team members are learning to trust each other and be more open. With new ways and more channels for communication, people seem to find it easier to reach out. Overall, the understanding, openness, and transparency engendered by the pandemic make for a healthier workplace.
Focus on Team Engagement and Connection
For any organization to succeed, ensuring the engagement of team members is essential. Even before the pandemic, many employers found it challenging to keep their teams motivated, productive, and fulfilled. Therefore, employers had to devise creative ways to foster engagement and team connection during the pandemic.
Employee engagement is crucial since people are working from their homes. To enhance their emotional connection to the company, managers recognize individual and team accomplishments, create an environment conducive to collaboration, and provide the necessary tools and training.
Many employers strive to boost team morale through virtual team activities like nights out and multi-player games where team members can interact with each other and forge connections. Setting up a communication channel where team members can talk about anything other than work is also prevalent in many workplaces today.
Employers have realized that not all positions require in-person attendance. When the pandemic hit, managers had to evaluate all roles and find ways for their team members to fulfill them. This resulted in increased flexibility in the workplace as work-from-home arrangements became more commonplace. Furthermore, many companies switched to hybrid work, combining in-person attendance with remote work.
Team members benefit from the increased flexibility offered by more workplaces, as some prefer to work remotely while others work best where there’s in-person interaction.
Need for Rapid Reskilling
As the digital space continues to grow rapidly, the need to learn new skills has become vital. This is inevitable as new roles are created, and team members need to upgrade their skill sets to fill those roles. Currently, employers are looking for team members with digital skills to manage complex tech-related problems that typically arise in today’s work environment.
The need for rapid reskilling will also change what employers check for when hiring. Those possessing a learning mindset and adaptability will have a distinct advantage in today’s competitive job market.
Shortened Work Week
The pandemic saw the world transition to an employee-oriented workforce. This transition also demonstrated that employers could retain team members in a four-day week working schedule. This flexibility is now widespread, with more employers showing a willingness to compromise. The reason is that early pilot studies show that a shortened work week significantly improves workers’ productivity and well-being.
That said, the standard 40-hour and five-day workweek might be shortened in more workplaces in the future.
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The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented changes around the world. The workplace wasn’t spared, and one of the most significant changes was how people worked. As companies and employees transitioned to new ways of working, it led to notable changes that reinvented the future of work.