“As we’ve moved to virtual work, we haven’t just coped, we’ve actually thrived. We are more focused on the things that have the greatest impact for our customers, associates and the business. We are making quicker decisions and acting. Meetings are now more inclusive of people regardless of location, level or other differences. We have great momentum and need to figure out how to carry it forward.”
Suresh Kumar, CTO at Wal-Mart
SAP Concur conducted a survey sampling a heterogeneous mix of 300 respondents in India & the APAC region across various sectors health, manufacturing, technology, BFSI, FMCG, Retail and the inferences were astonishing. A significant 69% admitted that productivity hit its peak during their work from home stint, while a whopping 88% preferred work from home due to flexible working hours, and this percentage was highest in the APAC region.
So, what does that tell us? The New Normal is already here and we are living it. But, here’s a rather pressing contemplation - is the new normal really ‘NEW’ or is it just the pandemic has become the catalyst in its massive adoption in a short period.
Research from The International Workplace Group’s 2019 Workplace highlighted 50% of the workforce globally were already working outside of the main office HQ even in a pre-pandemic world, 75% of employees noted remote working as ‘the new normal.’ In addition, a research study conducted by Gallup found that 59% employees in the US were working from home while 91% teams in Asia-Pacific had implemented remote work policies in early 2019.
It would rather be appropriate to say that the new normal arrived like a revolution for a lot of us, a little later than the rest of the world leaving us with no choice but to adopt it. Even before 2020, by the year 2018, 70% employees in the world worked remotely at least once every week and 16% high ticket enterprises stated that they had employees who worked remotely on a full-time basis by 2019. Likewise, 85% millennials consider flexible hours and the ability to work remotely as a key factor in selecting jobs.
Millennials represent a larger chunk of the workforce, and organizations have started evolving policies related to remote-work to accommodate their preferences, which led to the emergence of policies like BYOD, Remote Working, and Flexible Work Hours during pre-pandemic.
But is it a commonly opted and the most obvious choice yet? The answer is... maybe not yet.
In the pre-covid era, people working remotely really wanted to be remote workers by choice. These employees identified a trait of higher productivity in their preferred locations for work, they could perform better in a work-from-any-location set up as they were mentally aligned with the thought and the process.
Post-covid, billions of people are working remotely, but not by choice. That’s why there’s a huge difference where most employees have adapted to working from home, but some still feel that balancing their personal life, well-being and morale simultaneously struggling to improve productivity has been difficult, and a third of them are facing difficulties imbibing the company culture itself.
This is the workforce that probably has a personality that flourishes in a socially shared working space and peer-to-peer learning set up. While we are still trying to synchronize our minds and brains with the newly set up home-office, organizations across the world will adapt to a full work-from-any-location policy for its three-fold benefits like compact offices, virtual setups, and the resultant savings on infrastructure plus the larger benefits like improved well-being of people and the planet due reduction in fuel consumption, carbon emissions, lesser commute to workplaces, access to healthy food and so on.
And, the stats prove that the new wave of remote and co-located workplace is here for a long haul and we will thus have to weave our mindsets and working styles around it for optimum productivity and greater performance.
Amidst the chaos brought about by the disruptive phase of innovation and thriving for sustenance in the VUCA environment we are all at our level juggling operating between virtual workspaces, cloud computing, online meet ups, challenges of remote sales and customer consulting, distributed offices, online projects management, outlying workmanship and remote people leadership, regardless of our hierarchical placement of roles and responsibilities in the organization.
This is an opportune time to realize the importance of bringing about cognitive shifts to fight the unprecedented VUCA world and emerge as a winner. While we're just learning to understand the social and psychological implications of this shift, the importance of adding a human touch to the digital workspace is pivotal and fostering an emotionally intelligent culture will help us drive this in the new era. If one starts thinking out of the box with a focus on connecting with individuals at an emotional level, there are multiple opportunities up for grab.
Emotional Intelligence is awareness. We as employees need to be more aware of our needs and managers’ need to be more proactive to read between lines and decide when to practice laissez-faire and when to handhold your team. Emotionally intelligent managers know which circumstances call for video chats and which ones require more traditional digital communication while emotionally intelligent employees will know when to raise a hand for help when to take the onus and do some self-learning.
Can a touch of EI Transform the Future of Remote Work?
Certainly! New challenges require new solutions. Although we are only highlighting the dark side, there is still a silver lining, and the pandemic has presented opportunities to help instantly evolve our working style, our lifestyle and our personalities at large.
Companies were forced to adopt online collaboration tools and drive a gamut of their operation through digital communication. This has made us more tech-savvy, better decision-makers, efficacious problem solvers, agile learners and resilient individuals with immensely improved communication skills.
The cultural shifts associated with the transition to remote work will need a significant amount of time and herculean effort to sync in. In the interim, emotional intelligence will be able to lay an impetus of the necessary connection and trust within the dispersed and digitally connected workforce.
Simple ways to adapt to this culture will be engaging employees through various PHYGITAL blended activities which give them ample opportunities for social collaboration and foster personal connections like Remote Pot Luck (to make sure they feel valued and heard), bring cultural conversations to the forefront by celebrating occasions (personal & professional) with the team, regular unofficial casual hangouts to connect with teams at a personal level, skip level meetings with leaders to discuss company health and wellbeing, gamify work (weekly initiatives to recognize untapped talent & maintain morale in your workforce), dedicated group learning/ cross-mentoring opportunities, encouraging regular engagements for emotional and physical wellbeing like yoga, chi-gong, mindfulness, palates, guest lectures by therapists and so on.
In conclusion, if companies and the modern leaders support and drive synchronous as well as asynchronous communication at large, encourage virtual socialization, remote team building, cross mentoring, self-paced capability development, digitization of work culture, company policies and incremental innovation with Emotional Intelligence as its core, this new working culture can go a long way toward fending off feelings of alienation and re-uniting employees bound to a common purpose and by creating a happy and healthy workplace.
Get In Touch with our learning experts to know more about how you can help employees excel at Remote Work with must-have skills like Emotional Intelligence.
Happy Working in the New Normal!