Covid-19 brought a sudden and massive shift to the way many of us do our jobs. As governments implemented mobility restrictions, we found ourselves switching our office cubicle for our kitchen table. In an effort to maintain day to day operations and communications, our meetings moved online, leaving us in Zoom call after Zoom call. Although there is not much good to be said about global pandemics, the worlds reaction to the pandemic has created an opportunity for us to fast-forward to the future of work. Never let a good crisis go to waste, Sir Winston Churchill famously said. Now is the time to lay the foundation for the coming decades of workplace evolution.
Months into the pandemic, there are indications of several interesting effects on the workplace. One of these effects is that productivity has, according to some studies, increased thanks to for example reduced time spent commuting to work and increased work flexibility. Our hypothesis is that productivity is being kept at high levels initially since employees are working on strategic initiatives, projects and tasks which were defined and planned before the pandemic. As organizations need to develop new strategic initiatives, projects and tasks they will find this type of creative, cooperative work to be challenging to take on remotely. Furthermore, less social interaction among employees is likely to amplify the challenges. Therefore, we see a risk of decreased innovation, engagement and productivity over time. Our concern is shared by Professor Hyejin Youn at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
To avoid this pitfall, we first need to recognize the magnitude of change that has taken place in the workplace during 2020. The global pandemic has likely led to at least 10 years of workplace evolution being condensed into a few months. Before the pandemic, ~3.5% of US FTEs worked from home. In August 2020, 50% of office workers in 5 major European countries work at least 2 days per week from home. As governments ease restrictions, we can expect these numbers to come down, but we should certainly expect a new normal with significantly higher share of remote work in a post-Covid world.
Secondly, organizations need to revisit their operating models. Fundamentally changing the way we work also requires new or modified technologies, processes, management philosophies and organizational design. We’ve already seen companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Siemens and Novartis radically change their operating models to adapt to a permanent shift towards remote work. While fully remote companies might remain outliers, it is likely that common practice will be a flexible hybrid model, i.e. 2-3 days in the office and 2-3 days remote.
At Allting, we help our clients make the transition to remote work as productive, engaging and rewarding as possible. Research shows that all the issues we tend to experience in physical meetings (e.g. interruptions, multitasking, low engagement) are amplified in remote meetings. As remote meetings have become an essential part of the workplace, the benefits of improving them have skyrocketed.
Allting works like an activity tracker for your team. Instead of improving your 5K running pace, Allting is dedicated to improving your meetings. By tracking the meetings and collecting feedback from participants, users get individual insights and coaching, powered by artificial intelligence and data science. Don’t miss your chance of getting early access to Allting. Sign up here.
 Adriana Dahik, et al., (2020) What 12,000 Employees Have to Say About the Future of Remote Work, BCG