Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly blighted our communities, our society and the corporate world alike, it is crucial that we (and leaders especially) make an effort to identify the potential upsides of the situation.
Not only could this serve as a way to reinvigorate, and ultimately, reengage workforces, but perhaps also an opportunity to identify new strengths and skills that can be used to the company’s advantage as it navigates through the disruption.
With this as our mantra, we set out to identify what we feel are some of the top positives that organisations might see in the wake of the pandemic, and how business and HR leaders could use them to their advantage.
1. A more tech-savvy workforce?
Whether or not you believe remote working to be effective, the very nature of it means workers will be exposed to technology to an extent they may not have experienced before.
As a result, it is possible that, upon their return to the workplace, many employees will be equipped with both new and improved skills that can be used to benefit the organisation.
For instance, a survey conducted by software company Asana found that just under two thirds (62%) of full-time workers have increased their use of collaboration tools such as Slack and Zoom since working from home.
What’s more, the study found that 19% of this number are using such tools for the first time in their careers.
Similarly, tech giant Microsoft has reported that, since the onset of the pandemic and worldwide lockdown, it has recorded a 500% increase in the use of its Teams software on desktops, and 200% on mobiles.
Quite simply, trends such as these could represent an important next step in the technological literacy of the modern workforce, allowing for more fruitful and efficient long-term development in the wake of the pandemic.
In addition, the short-term scenario may be positively impacted for many employers. At present, much added complication surrounds the talent acquisition process, but with a more capable workforce that has, in a sense, been automatically up-skilled, the need to overcome this struggle may be eliminated.
2. Improved financial health?
Food, travel, childcare and even office attire can often feel like petty, insignificant expenses, but these are things that can add up quickly, particularly with the inflated prices of major cities.
However, much of this expense has been temporarily eliminated due to remote working. For some, this could act as a welcome boost during a time where financial stability is a prevalent concern.
Global Workplace Analytics examined this further in a recent study, suggesting that the typical employee would save an average of nearly £2,500 per year by working at home for just half of the working week.
What’s more, the study proposes that employers could equally benefit from these working patterns. It shows that the typical organisation can save an average of just under £10,000 per employee per year on expenses such as real estate and travel subsidy.
So, not only could remote working have instilled an added financial security for many employees, potentially increasing employee satisfaction and engagement in the process, but employers may have reaped the benefits too.
3. Valuable experience for some employees
In many cases, job roles are becoming much more fluid as a result of the disruption, and organisations are placing a greater reliance on team and project-based work.
Examples of this include Bank of America temporarily converting more than 3,000 roles in order to cope with added demand in certain areas of the organisation, and Allianz Global Investors setting up internal project marketplaces that break down tasks and projects in order for them to be matched with people from anywhere in the organisation.
Whilst from a certain perspective this can be stressful and problematic, some (particularly younger) employees may thrive in this kind of environment and find the variety enjoyable and engaging.
Two key metrics stand out in making this case. Firstly, there are numerous reports that link role variety to job satisfaction. One study conducted by University of Gronigen found it to be the third highest ranking factor in terms of the correlation between specific job aspects and overall job satisfaction.
Secondly, it hard to disprove the theory that younger generations display a greater hunger and aptitude for career development. One survey even found that 91% of millennial professionals think career progression is a top priority.
Based on these factors, there is some scope that an abrupt shift in workplace roles and responsibilities could benefit certain workers.
In turn, organisations may be able to leverage this situation as an opportunity to engage employees and produce greater productivity.
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