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2021: The New Digital Normal for the Future of Work

The "new normal” post COVID-19 will be defined as the "New Digital Normal". With the help of technology, businesses will not only discover new models of working, but also identify ways to maintain the “human” interactions at work.

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It has been six months since a “normal” workday changed almost overnight and sent businesses into crisis management mode. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered fundamental societal and organisational changes but brought a huge opportunity for business leaders to rethink their business strategy and redesign their talent structure.

While the experience has been unstable and unpredictable, there is industry consensus that technology will be the only reliable partner in the future of work. The "new normal” post COVID-19 will be defined as the "New Digital Normal". With the help of technology, businesses will not only discover new models of working, but also identify ways to maintain the “human” interactions at work. 

Major trends that can be anticipated in the future of work are as follows 

Working from home will transition to working from anywhere

For a long time, especially with the advent of Gen Z, the global workforce has been gravitating towards career options bringing the freedom to work from anywhere. However, organizations were slow to adapt to these new demands, and businesses still preferred the traditional “physical office” system. But with COVID-19, employers and the workforce turned to work- technology to keep teams connected. This popularized remote working/work from home models. According to a research paper published by MIT, working from home increased by 35% after the onset of the pandemic. Despite the forced digital transformation in businesses, the workforce demonstrated that even if teams were not geographically present at the same location, work continued efficiently.

One can therefore expect that slowly, as the pandemic's impact reduces, a "work from anywhere" concept will evolve. Emphasis will move from being physically present in an office, to being “at work” in virtual offices through software that connects teams seamlessly. In fact, a Frost and Sullivan report recommends businesses adopt “work from anywhere” under a long- term strategy plan for organizations.

Securing trust through employee wellbeing 

There is no denying that one of the biggest benefits of a physical office is that it facilitates human interaction between employees. These “water cooler moments” have been integral to employee wellbeing, giving them an opportunity for social interactions and relationships. Council on Foreign Relations further elaborates that while this trend has led to increased productivity, it has also increased feelings of isolation and stress. The report further highlights that most missed casual encounters with colleagues, and the absence of such connections could stifle creativity and reduce team collaboration. In fact, a recent paper published by Harvard Business Review quotes that employees in the USA are reporting alarming levels of stress and fatigue, and the risk for depression has risen by 102% because of the Covid-19 pandemic!

As a result of such trends, we can expect that technology integration at work will consciously focus on employee wellbeing as teams continue to work from multi-locations. A sense of connectivity and collaboration needs to be constantly facilitated through technology. This is possible only through virtual replication of the physical office environment in a sustained manner. It will not be sufficient to just adopt software to facilitate video calls when required. Employees need to feel that they are a part of a larger organizational team and not individuals contributing to a specific team.

Building a capable, adaptable workforce

One definite outcome of the working model has been that people will be the core focus of what lies ahead. Hence, as collaboration between teams increase, efforts will focus on upskilling teams and helping them adapt to a more agile framework. In addition, career progression will also  be expedited as there will be opportunities to collaborate across teams and geographies. Businesses will streamline work and organizational structures to remove inefficiency and give more opportunities to employees. With barriers of geography removed, HR managers will also transition from face-to-face interviews to recruiting online. Hence, overall, there will be a more capable and adaptable workforce.

'To conclude, technology is the only reliable partner in the future of work, and when approached responsibly and innovatively, it makes workplaces more appealing and practical!'

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Annil Chandel

CEO, Wurkr

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