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Reimagining the future of work

Suits The C-Suite

(Second of two parts)

While many organizations have embarked on implementing more agile, people-centric and digitally-enabled workplaces, these same enterprises were not sufficiently equipped to deal with the rapid proliferation of COVID-19. After more than a year of adapting to the new normal and transforming how we work, it became evident that employees, workplaces, and the future of work have changed in significant ways that we could not have previously imagined. According to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee survey, which comprises the results of interviews with more than 16,000 employee respondents across 16 countries, employees are fully embracing the flexibility that has made remote work possible, with 48% of respondents believing that their company culture improved during the pandemic.

In the first part of this article, we discussed how companies need to understand the new normal worker, enabled by technology. In this second part, we continue by determining when and where work can be done in terms of remote and hybrid workspaces, and the necessity of making data-driven decisions fueled by workforce insights.

Transitioning to video conference meetings and online chat presented a number of challenges. Employees reported varying levels of distress learning to manage remote work and work-life balance, such as a lack of boundaries, losing track of time over days and weeks, and feelings of isolation. These were the most common concerns raised in an EY Work Reimagined Leader’s Forum in the discussion on the challenges posed by remote work. In the survey, 78% employees and leaders responded that they felt the increased pressure to be constantly connected to their jobs.

Up to 77% of survey participants also selected the loss of human connectivity as their top concern about increased technology adoption and agile working. This indicates that human connections still matter — and are perhaps even more important now as many employees globally face limitations on mobility, travel and returning to physical work spaces.

In light of this, companies should consider incorporating “digital well-being” into their technology and tools to help employees manage remote work, such as leveraging fitness apps or digital fitness programs and emotional well-being apps to sync with enterprise technology. This technology aims to give employees insight into when they need to recharge and disconnect.

Leaders designing remote and hybrid work strategies will want to position employee well-being at the forefront. They will need to understand what well-being features available in enterprise tech can benefit their employees and, concurrently, reinforce leadership communications that emphasize how they prioritize and support the well-being of their people. Despite the widespread adoption of remote work, survey data indicates that most employees are still not ready to embrace a completely virtualized work experience. The study shows that two-thirds of respondents wish to resume some form of business travel, and that a large majority of employees would prefer to work in the office two to three days a week once it is safe to do so.

Many corporate leaders are already creating hybrid workplace strategies that bring together remote and in-office work. However, the hybrid work model risks falling flat unless the purpose of the office is made clear: as a place that helps people accomplish their best work and create meaningful connections. Employees enabled by technology have already realigned their working style to be more agile and flexible. New tools and technologies have already set the workforce on a new trajectory underpinned by flexibility. Based on the EY survey results, tomorrow’s employees will likely desire more freedom to design their workdays and meet virtually or in-person when needed to innovate and collaborate. In brief, employees want the flexibility to choose where and when to work while assisted by technology at all end points.

To capitalize on this trend, the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Head of Corporate Real Estate should deliberate and consider how future work models can offer diversity and flexibility while encouraging a diverse and inclusive workforce, finding a good balance among location, technology and human interaction to bring out the best in their people.

Leaders now have access to technology to drive their organizations forward, becoming increasingly accustomed to written communications and virtual appearances. The increased deployment of survey technology also allows leaders to align more quickly to their company purpose and employee needs.

Leadership communication has improved in terms of expressing empathy, trust, and support, according to one comment at the EY Work Reimagined Leader’s Forum. The pandemic had a humbling effect on everyone, especially leaders, leading people to be kinder and more considerate under the collective challenges that we are all experiencing today. Technology rapidly broke down barriers between leadership, management, and employees, allowing leadership to sustain a more positive culture that saw gains in 2020.

Technology leaders and the CHRO can support leadership by exploring technologies that can measure sentiment in real time during leadership video messages and livestreams. It will be important to constantly listen and collect workforce feedback to provide leadership with timely insights. Moreover, it’s no longer enough for leaders to delegate digital leadership — leaders must understand the interplay between technology and megatrends to enable their businesses to deliver long-term value and remain relevant post-pandemic.

The future of work, where we work and how we respond to work have all been transformed by technology, and organizations that navigate this seismic shift can successfully take advantage of its transformative opportunities. Leaders will need to continue assessing how the new ways of working can further enhance productivity among their employees to make more informed decisions about what can be kept or improved.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.


Lisa Marie T. Escaler is the People Advisory Services –  Workforce Advisory (PAS WFA) Leader of SGV & Co.