June 21, 2021

Driven by profound societal and organizational shifts, workplaces have evolved from time to time to normalize the way we work. The latest alarm raised by the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced a new way of working wherein organizations have responded to global lockdowns by relying on the work from home model, also referred to as remote working, with little or no preparation.

It is incredible how employees have pushed their mental boundaries and made a segue into a less-explored way of working. According to Global Workforce Analytics, 25% to 30% of the workforce will be working from home on multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

On the other hand, organizations, including the ones that were hesitant to offer the work from home option for their employees for the fear of loss of productivity, too have started to accept the fact that remote working really works and their workforce can thrive remotely. Organizations are not only navigating the ways to adopt to and optimize this shift just for today, but they are also exploring options to create value for tomorrow and are willing to go beyond the established norms. Over the past few months, we have seen an increased effort from organizations to complement the remote working model through corporate drives such as:

  • Focusing on the mental and physical well-being of employees

  • Encouraging collaboration amongst employees

  • Touching the human side of the business through virtual happy hours

  • Upskilling and reskilling programs

According to a report by Buffer (in partnership with Doist, Hubstaff, Remote-How, RemoteYear, Trello, Workfrom, and We Work Remotely), out of the 2,500 remote workers surveyed, 99% of them responded that they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. While organizations are considering making this temporary work from home model a more permanent fixture, however, a survey conducted by Gartner concludes that only 7% to 18% of organizations possess the digital dexterity required to adopt the new ways of work solutions. Investments in modern talent management suites can play a pivotal role in turning the tide and could be beneficial to both organizations and their employees.

When the pandemic begins to ease, one possible option that organizations may adopt in the long term is the hybrid work model – a combination of remote and on-site working. This model seems to be promising but might present a new challenge in the future. HR managers need to be at the forefront to drive this paradigm shift - the new way of working, and curate the evolving organizational culture. Organizations will have to adapt to a few key elements such as agility, personalization, and data-driven decision-making to thrive during this shift. The new way of working is underpinned by the adoption of some key practices and behaviors, such as increased collaboration amongst peers, more focus on the utility and quality of output, investing in continuous learning to develop skills that can potentially open multiple avenues of opportunities, provision for flexible careers, flexibility in managing the workforce by utilizing more gig workers, tracking employees passively, the culture of inclusiveness, risk probability assessment and management, increased mental health support, and providing financial support.

Better work-life balance, location independence, less commuting stress, financial savings, positive impact on the environment, and improved productivity, positivity, and performance are a few benefits of the new age of working. But before implementing the long-term adoption of remote working or the hybrid way of working, organizations need to make sure that they have standard operating procedures and detailed policies in place to determine the eligibility of employees to work from home, and provide a clear set of expectation parameters to employees, factor remote needs into employee benefits package, and think beyond the office to create a culture that embraces remote workers and understands the value they bring.

To sum up, the new age of work is getting popular too fast but is still in the nascent stage of its evolution. However, the early signs are encouraging and positive leading to a new, brave world of opportunities.

Sachin Deshmukh is a Pre-Sales & Solutions Consultant for HR Transformation with the Platform Solutions unit at TCS. He holds a master's degree in IT and Marketing from Balaji Institute of Modern Management, Pune.