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Game changing: how Covid-19 has reshaped our thinking about the future of work

Source: The Guardian

The coronavirus-enforced lockdown has disrupted our previously entrenched notion of the “office” and what it means to go to work. Many of us have set up shop in home offices, at dining tables and in corners of our living room. Almost one-third of working Australians have worked from home while social distancing, and this has changed the way businesses and employees are thinking about the future of work.

The way we think about space is different

Adam Gregory, senior director ANZ, talent and learning solutions, at LinkedIn, says our physical workplaces have changed and are likely to keep changing.

“There’s been a migration over the years from having a fixed working environment to more mobile, collaboration spaces,” Gregory says. “If there is a requirement to socially distance for a very long time, employers are going to have to look at what that means for them. You might need twice the space to be able to accommodate the same number of people. That’s probably untenable for a number of businesses, and will lead to more hybrid workplaces.”

A hybrid workplace, he explains, is one that allows for versatile working styles, configurations and needs. It might be a fixed office building with open hot-desking spaces, or a dynamic environment with flexible hours.

Covid-19 has proved that flexible work can be done. The next step for hybrid spaces is to bring in people from different locations, connecting in-office staff with remote workers to create the best team possible.

Hiring diverse teams is high on the agenda

Supporting a hybrid work environment means employers will be able to attract talent from all over the world, and extend their businesses into regional and remote areas that were previously excluded.

“There’s going to be a lot of benefits about the people they can attract, bringing jobs in from overseas, and setting up hubs either remotely or into secondary and tertiary cities in Australia,” Gregory says. While companies could always hire from anywhere in the world, not every candidate would relocate for a job.

Opening up the talent pool creates opportunities for great candidates with different accessibility requirements, too. “So many of our customers at LinkedIn are focused on diverse hiring,” he says. “Not just gender, but also people with disabilities, people who aren’t able to come into the office for various reasons. They can now think about hiring a much more diverse team because there’s not that requirement for everyone to be in the same place at the same time. Our data also shows that companies with diversity and inclusion employees are 22% more likely to be seen as an industry leader with high-caliber talent”.

And it’s not just for now. Gregory says working remotely or flexibly shouldn’t feel like a “holding pattern”, waiting for work to return to normal so we can keep moving ahead with our plans.

“At LinkedIn, we’re trying to create an environment where we’re learning together and sharing together,” he says. “That way, we can all feel like we’re actually still moving forward and progressing in our careers. We’re developing our people to the best extent we can in this virtual world.”

You don’t need to be in an office to be productive

An April Glint survey found that almost 70% of Australians say they are more productive now than before Covid-19. This supports a long-held belief that working from home does make us more productive – according to research, we spend less time in arbitrary meetings and have fewer work-related distractions, while being able to better prioritise our tasks.

Gregory says Covid-19 has changed the perspectives of many employers. “The reasons not to innovate and think about flexibility that they may have had pre-Covid have actually gone away,” he says. “This enables them to think about the people they hire, and how to approach things differently. The productivity tools that exist now mean that being in the office is no longer such a requirement.”

Office culture starts at the top, not the water cooler

Gregory acknowledges that for some businesses, a hybrid workplace might not be suitable, and that’s OK. But others can start working towards a positive, inclusive hybrid working environment.

“Today, more than ever before, culture is one of the priorities that employees consider when looking at a potential employer. It’s a different challenge to manage a culture and drive a culture when you’re 100% remote. As employers think about the implications for their teams and their staff, making sure that they’re addressing that culture piece is going to be a really important part of a hybrid workplace in the future. Tools such as Glint can really help organisations understand the culture they have and their journey to create a new one.” Your team need to feel connected, both to one another and to a sense of the value of their work.

He suggests that when workers do come together in that physical space, they need to feel that they are important to the team, not that they have been missing out because they have chosen to adopt a more flexible working arrangement.

“We have a team member that has joined us remotely,” he says, “and when we met, because we had spent so much time on Teams calls and on the phone, and because of the investment in understanding the whole person, it felt like a reunion rather than meeting someone for the first time.”

It’s an evolution, not a revolution

“There are going to be a lot of lessons that we’ll be able to draw from,” Gregory says. “Hopefully that will put businesses in good stead should anything like this ever happen again.”

He says the most important lesson to be learnt from Covid-19 is that individuals’ needs are different. As remote work has shown, every person in a workplace – whether it’s hybrid or only physical – has a different approach to productivity, learning and development, work-life balance and being great at what they do.

“What’s right for me could be very, very different for you,” Gregory says. “Businesses need to take the lesson that managing the employee as an individual is going to be an important part of working arrangements in the future, to provide the best environment for the individual and not assume that it’s one size fits all.”

It will be a learning curve, too, which is part of the journey. “It’s an evolution, not a revolution. Covid has perhaps expedited some of these changes, but businesses need to put their employees first to enable that environment for individuals to thrive in the role. That will, in turn, help the business succeed as well.”


This article was from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.