Monday 26 July 2021 4:52 pm

Evening Read: Reimagining and simplifying the workforce after the pandemic

It’s no surprise that some business leaders, as a result of the pandemic, are having to re-examine parts of their business and many crave new perspectives. 

Even when businesses try to return to work as usual’, the concept of a 9-5 job in an office will probably for many be a relic from a different era. 

But as businesses adapt, the future of work will vary depending on the sector, as there have been broad differences in the pandemic’s effects on industries. 

As we slowly emerge from Covid-19 and ever-more onerous restrictions, City A.M. looks at how the future of business has been altered, what the world of work might look like and how business leaders can prepare for the road ahead.

Reimagine the workforce

Three subsequent lockdowns have had a significant impact on most companies, not least employees that joined their business since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Ezgi Verner, HR director at Xero, is not exception.

“I joined Xero in the midst of COVID-19 and in the six months I’ve been at the company, I’m yet to meet my own team face-to-face,” she told City A.M. this evening.

“Remote working has meant that I’ve had to work on my skills and adapt myself to change, and I’ll be the first to admit that this new way of working hasn’t been easy to navigate,” she added.

With traditional work arrangements being completely transformed, businesses can now use the strength of the ‘open talent economy’ to connect those who have been furloughed, or layed-off, to embrace immediate opportunities. 

Business leaders should also be actively planning for how to use the alternative labour market to scale, recover and thrive after many have had such a difficult year. 

“We are forced to explore new ways of staying connected in a meaningful way on digital platforms, but are challenged with exercising the ability to disconnect, when our home lives and work lives are so closely merged together,” Verner said.

As we move into a new semblance of normal, it will also be important for businesses to focus on upskilling their employees, she stressed.

“Developing engagement, putting emphasis on employee’s wellbeing and career growth will reverse the culture of specialisation with, now much desired, adaptability,” Verner noted.

Simplifying the workforce

As the government encouraged us all to stay at home, organisations were forced to shift to remote and virtual working. These adjustments disrupted work environments and patterns, and to what extent that practice continues is one of the big unknowns.

“We asked ourselves whether we were setting up our employees to be successful in their role. We listened and adapted quickly, introducing our Future of Work initiative giving our employees the freedom of choice as part of our flexible working guidelines,” Verner said.

In a post-Covid world, some employees may prefer working in an office for structure and collaboration, while others will require flexible working to flourish.

Although, according to Verner, 46 per cent of SME owners say that the new ways of working they pivoted to during the pandemic means they’re better set up for the future. 

“However it’s undeniable that it will be challenging for both employers and employees to strike the right balance. The companies that stand out post-Covid will be the ones that paid attention to how the pandemic affected their employees’ needs and working styles and simplified their lives by adapting accordingly,” Verner said.

For instance, working while parenting has always been a balancing act, but the pandemic has led to any existing structures and routines being abandoned.

“By giving working parents the time and support they need to care for their children, workplace family-friendly policies – like paid parental leave, partner’s leave, keep in touch days and flex-return – will help to reduce the burden on families,” she concluded.