Among the many seismic shifts brought by the pandemic, one of the most significant changes is how people view the workplace. As companies abruptly shifted to the work-from-home model to adapt to COVID-19, questions arose regarding what employees value, what measures truly promote productivity, and what people look for in the workplace. Furthermore, the topics of work-life balance, mental health, and the employee experience have become a mainstay in popular discussion.
As the pandemic continues to upend decades of 9-to-5, office-centric work, employers and employees have since discovered alternative ways of accomplishing tasks, navigating challenges, and managing productivity. As employees continue to rethink their values, especially regarding their employment, the workplace will continue to adapt to fit evolving needs.
The State of the Workplace Before the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, working in an office was the norm. For context, 47% of employees had never worked from home. Instead, employees went to the office, sat in a cubicle, finished their work, and traipsed home.
Working from home was considered a perk for select individuals that had special circumstances. One of the few instances that commonly was acceptable to work from home was when an employee needed to be located in a different geographical area to complete their job. For example, a small public relations agency based out of Atlanta might need a few remote employees in different cities, such as New York City and Chicago to expand their reach into different markets. However, this all changed in March 2020 when the outside world started to shut down due to COVID-19.
How the Pandemic Affected the Workplace
Currently, more than half of the global workforce is working remotely. That’s a stark difference from two years ago when the majority of people had never worked from home before. In response, employers are now rethinking the workplace and how to proceed moving forward.
When debating a remote vs. office workforce, employers discovered that people could accomplish most tasks remotely without drops in productivity or quality, while saving money by avoiding office rent. Additionally, employees appreciate remote work because of the flexibility it provides, not being burdened with long commutes, and avoiding office distractions. However, shifting to the work-from-home model has illuminated issues as well. This includes the need for defining better boundaries between work and personal life, better means of communication among team members, and addressing the lack of employee engagement.
How Employers are Reorienting the Workplace
The pandemic has highlighted inadequacies in the workplace. Some employers have responded to these issues by reevaluating employees’ roles, needs, and benefits.
1) Increased Focus on Mental Health
As the pandemic played out, people were forced to spend inordinate amounts of time in their homes and drastically reduce in-person social interactions. Compounded by the fact that work from home became the norm, employees had very little opportunity to engage with others which took a toll on peoples’ mental health. In fact, 16.6% of respondents in a survey conducted byreported their workplace environment had an entirely negative or primarily negative effect on their mental wellbeing.
Consequently, conversations around work-life balance and employees’ mental health have become more of a priority for employers. Employers are focused on implementing measures that help encourage a healthy work environment. For example, salaried employees at Netflix receive unlimited paid time off, but with travel restrictions in place, people were opting to work instead of taking vacations. To solve this problem, company leadership encouraged employees to use their vacation days, and some teams even rotated mandatory days off.
2) Recognizing What Actually Appeals to Employees
The Diskette survey also debunks the belief that workers are drawn in by flashy perks, such as complimentary snacks and pool tables. Their preferred workplace provides the necessary flexibility to maintain a work/life balance over having a brag-worthy office filled with video games and vertical gardens.
With work-from-home becoming the norm, employers must offer what employees value, including reasonable working hours, robust time-off policies, physical and mental health support, equitable salaries, and effortless digital communication between teams.
3) Shifting to Remote-First or Hybrid Models
Buffer & AngelList’s 2020 State of Remote Report revealed that out of 3,500 workers, 98% would like to work remotely for part of their career, and 97% recommend remote jobs. The Diskette survey also found that department heads and executives are more likely to opt for remote working than their entry-level counterparts.
Having recognized the multiple advantages of remote work, companies have started incorporating it into their models. Companies like Twitter, Facebook, Shopify, Hitachi, Slack, and Quora have gone remote permanently. Companies like Microsoft, Spotify, Target, Ford, and Adobe have introduced hybrid work models. In the latter case, employees work from home, typically two-three days per week, and work at the office for the remainder of the workweek.
A Gallup Poll conducted March 30th-April 2nd, 2020, found workers with employers offering flex-time or remote work options grew from 39% to 57% in a matter of three days. This trend is quickly solidifying as the norm as flexibility has become a priority value for today’s workforce.
Employers must adapt to evolving work models and address what employees value to thrive in a post-pandemic world. Workplaces need reshaping from the ground up to appeal to employees, boost their productivity, and operate without compromising revenue. Without evolving to fit employee demands, companies will find it very challenging to operate successfully.
Is your company looking to hire fresh talent to revamp your workplace or bring new ideas to the table? Or are you looking for a career move? If so, eNamix would love to talk with you! Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation with one of our senior account managers.