Demographic shifts, societal changes, lightning pace of technology, and the pandemic have changed the way companies do business and the way we work. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, it is worthwhile to take account of these changes and understand what does the workplace of the future look like. These changes will have a far-reaching impact on how enterprises will manage their workforce and build their employee policies, including wellness programs, training, and retention.
With technology spurring sweeping transitions at organisational and industry level, the future of work and the new workplace will prioritise flexibility in approach, employee wellbeing, and a growing focus on sustainability.
Some of these changes are visible and immediate. The pandemic has demonstrated that remote work is possible at a mass-scale to ensure business continuity in the face of strict worldwide lockdown. The talent of the future is expecting flex—whether that's flexible work hours or locations. As many companies seek a return to the office, employees aren’t keen to go back to business as usual. Instead, they prefer a hybrid work setup that creates more flexibility. As per Savills Research, almost half the employees surveyed (48%) post-pandemic, preferred working remotely, compared to only 30% of employees who showed preference for remote working in the pre-COVID period.
Increasingly, businesses have taken a flexibility of approach, allowing employees to follow flexi-timings and some even allowing work anywhere. A hybrid workplace is also expected to lay a higher premium on employee experience with more attention paid to collaborative workflow in terms of both office floor design and workplace policies. In fact, the marked transition towards an employee-centric approach is the underlying theme of the workplace of future.
Any workplace health promotion activity or organisational policy designed to support healthy behavior among employees and to improve health outcomes can be Workplace wellness. While employee wellness has been a slogan for companies for years, it has gained traction only in the aftermath of the pandemic as organisations realised the impact of ill health on employee engagement and productivity. Now, there is a push to decouple wellness with productivity by laying emphasis on pursuing employee wellbeing alone. The demand for this shift in focus also comes as employees become more vigilant towards their own health and safety.
It’s important to note here that safety pertains not just to protection against any physical harm but also psychological and mental wellbeing. With employees demanding a safer work environment, companies are now increasingly focused on ensuring a work-conducive environment where employees can thrive. Thriving employees are of tremendous value to an organization. Gallup tests engaged employees across five elements of overall wellbeing in the context of the workplace: career, social, physical, financial, and community.
There are also considerable benefits towards focusing on employee wellness. It helps in increasing morale, boosting engagement, creates a positive energy, and reduces absenteeism. Given that organisations allocate approximately 90% of their operational costs towards staff attraction, retention, and development, wellbeing policies are likely to become an integral part of improving employee retention.
Technology inspired workplace
The pandemic was the tipping point for digitalisation sweeping across every sector. However, the necessity of making this transition has been apparent with the advent of Industry 4.0 or the next evolution of how people live and work with the rise of technology. With jobs now increasingly falling at the intersection of machine, AI, and humans, employees will be driving forward tech transitions, playing an integral part of organisational growth and the pandemic has finally pushed organisations to make that switch.
Businesses had to undertake a systematic approach towards embedding technology not only in their supply chain operations, communication or products, but also in workplace functions, investing in seamless tech integration that is future-ready, scalable, functional, and viable. For modern organisations, tech integration is based on the three pillars - user experience, employee wellbeing, and organisational backbone functions.
Interest in sustainable businesses has been growing in both developed and developing countries with a report by World Wide Fund for Nature showing an astonishing 71% rise in sustainable goods over the last five years. While consumers and government regulations may be driving the changes towards sustainability, it has a direct impact on employee policies. With 13% of all greenhouse emissions attributed to commercial and residential properties, cutting down on carbon emissions at the workplace becomes critical. Sustainable measures include utilising energy-efficient equipment and machinery, reducing waste, recycling material, buying from sustainable vendors, encouraging carpooling or providing company transport, and cutting down on work-related flights.
In the last few years, our workplaces have evolved rapidly. Today the focus has shifted from production to employee satisfaction and retention as businesses realise that it is people who make an organisation successful. With technology further accelerating these changes, companies must have the ability to quickly adapt these policies in order to retain talent.