by Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo
COVID-19 is transforming the way businesses are operating on a large scale. Challenges crop up in the workplace every day, and organizations are doing their best to address them at the soonest time possible in order to adapt to the new normal.
Such changes may be overwhelming for the ordinary desk worker all the way to the C-suite officer. But as the call of the times makes such transformations inevitable, what key aspects of the workplace must organizations focus on to help them successfully navigate the pandemic and, eventually, the future? Gemma Gaerlan, chief operations officer of EY Global Services, discussed five components during the Asia Future-of-Work Forum held on June 25.
1. Integration of resiliency in operations
Prior COVID-19, the Philippines already had to weather several disasters. The recent eruption of Taal Volcano, for example, caused some establishments to suspend work due to ashfall.
“While productivity and efficiency are essential components of our response to disruptions, keeping ourselves resilient, agile, and nimble are equally imperative. We need to have the right mindset, discipline, and the emotional preparedness to combat unforeseen and difficult situations, and these are all necessary attributes of good business leaders,” said Ms. Gaerlan.
For instance, some organizations may be finding it difficult to review their books considering the pandemic’s impact on the business. But Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, co-founder of fashion social enterprise Rags2Riches, discussed in a separate forum how vital it is to face the challenge head-on. This will help your organization come up with the best solution in the swiftest possible time.
2. Flexible work arrangements
According to research and advisory firm Gartner, 41% of employees around the world will likely continue working from home at least some of the time post-pandemic. Multinational companies are already listening; Twitter, for example, has allowed employees to work from home indefinitely.
“Working from home could be relatively new in the Philippine setting, but it has become the most sensible and most realistic solution as the new way of working,” said Ms. Gaerlan.
Experts are agreeing that remote work is beneficial in several ways. In the same forum, Lars Wittig, country manager of IWG Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia, believes that offering a permanent work-from-home option will attract young talent who believe in being measured by results rather than timesheets. Ruth Owens, founder of Connected Women, notes that it’s inclusive of women who choose to juggle their careers and home lives.
There are roadblocks, of course, as previously reported by BusinessWorld: Not all Filipinos have access to the internet at home, with only three fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 people, putting the Philippines at 110th out of 187 countries in 2016, according to the United Nations Broadband Commission.
New arrangements call for changes in operations. While the transition may seem worrisome at first, there are a plethora of available technologies that can ease organizations into a more digital workflow. Consider the likes of cloud technology, which allows employees to access files any time and anywhere — thus removing the need for them to be constantly stationed at the office.
“The right technology guarantees quality, reliability, consistency, and obviously speed, security, and integrity. During the pandemic, we have seen and we have reaped the benefits of our firm’s investment in our technology infrastructure. We wouldn’t have survived without good technology… It takes a lot of planning and preparations to do that, but having the really great technology that comes with it will make it really successful,” said Ms. Gaerlan.
As the pandemic continues to impact the different sectors of work in various ways, Ms. Gaerlan finds that “the need to make use of data to better understand business trends, employee engagement, and productivity” will only continue to accelerate.
To kickstart their own innovation processes, companies can first double-check if they have any internal data that is not being utilized to its full potential. In a separate online forum, Miko David, co-founder of digital strategy consulting firm David & Golayt, shared how one of their client’s departments unknowingly had the perfect input for another department. “If they knew that they could connect these two dots together, they could have saved up to 30% of costs,” he said.
If there’s a need for consumer data, companies can utilize tools ranging from social media polls to more complex applications. In another forum, Samuel Jeanblanc, market lead at Google Philippines, recommended CRM (customer relationship management) platforms such as Salesforce and HubSpot.
5. Social action
COVID-19 has made many people vulnerable beyond exposure to illness. For instance, layoffs have caused a surge in the country’s unemployment rate. Unfortunately, the pandemic won’t be the last disaster in the future, and it surely isn’t the only one going on right now. As issues like climate change and social inequality continue to rattle society, consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z-ers, expect companies to make their voices heard and do what they can to help.
“With COVID-19, our clients, our stakeholders, and most especially our employees and prospective employees may start defining our organizations based on how we have responded to the crisis. So things like how we [protected] our people and our people’s jobs, how we [protected] our clients, and what we [did] to help society and the government in the national battle for this crisis [will be remembered],” said Ms. Gaerlan.