2021 Fjord Trend: Sweet teams are made of this
The reframing of work – including the time and place when and where work is carried out, as well as the overall relationship between employees and employers – has been going on for quite some time. Mainly driven by technology, this development has progressed quietly in the background, with such small steps some of us have hardly noticed them.
As the pandemic hit and people left their offices, everything accelerated. With teams scattered and communication taking place mainly through digital tools, the entire concept of employee experience – along with engagement – required a thorough reassessment. As homes turned into workplaces, it soon became evident that the development works both ways; working from home became living in the office. New standards were required for the reciprocal agreement between employer and employee as the many assumptions around it could no more be taken for granted.
With practically every employee working remotely, the peripheral value of being physically present in a workplace has dramatically diminished. This brings an all new challenge to employers: how to make the most of all that vast amount of social capital, knowledge, soft skills and hands-on experience out there?
“In the trends 2020, we spoke about “liquid people” and if anything I think the pandemic has really been an accelerator for many companies to take a more holistic approach to people in their teams” says Sofia Pörner, Group strategy director Fjord and Design pillar lead at Accenture interactive. People’s desires to be understood as fully-rounded individuals – with all inherent complexities and contradictions – have become more visible for employers.”
Photo of Sofia Pörner.
Sofia Pörner adds that as the boundaries between work and home have been blurred, companies’ responsibility for people’s wellbeing and satisfaction has become very real. Loneliness and burn-out have increased as part of the pandemic and are more complex to handle than for example ergonomic problems.
One thing is clear: from now on, employee experience as a concept will look different for every organization. One size will no more fit all, and individual tailoring is required. Not only when it comes to how may days a week people want to work from the office and how many remotely. As everyone reassesses what they value most in employment, every element of the employer/employee contract has to be carefully reviewed. Returning to normal will not only be adapting to where people physically work, but also re-thinking how employers design an attractive employee value proposition in order to recruit and retain the right talent.
The tools for tomorrow’s employee experience
As the future workplace has less to do with a physical space and more with a mindset, there is simply no way to predict how it will shape up. However, there are four areas in which employers should innovate in order to ensure experiences that can meet the expectations of future employees.
While there are many organizations that have been reluctant to jump all the way to the deep end of digital transformation, they now find themselves in a situation where the only way to survive, yet alone thrive, is to start embracing the opportunities to the full extent. This snowball might very well generate a breakthrough in device innovation; existing tools are already being repurposed while new solutions are emerging at an increasing pace.
Technology that supports home working has so far stayed mainly outside the employee value proposition, but that is changing. Hardware and software designed to revolutionize the experience and transform interactions among dispersed teams.
A strong culture is an obvious driver of business success; from now on, it just has to be built without people being physically together. Employees need new approaches that are specifically tailored to virtual teams.
As remote working, especially when it comes to knowledge workers, typically increases productivity, it also runs the risk of causing a drop in the sense of belonging. Small elements such as ad hoc communications between colleagues are enormously valuable to maintain.
“Remote working will also put greater demand on leadership”, Sofia Pörner emphasizes. “How to stay close to the team, give feedback and help people grow will require an updated set of tools in a hybrid workplace.”
While companies used to search specialists within a specific geographical area, the opportunity to work from anywhere widens this circle remarkably. This is one of the many aspects that can make home working an important employee perk. While salary was often the crucial element in the old days, in the future the value of work will be determined by an even wider variety of factors.
As people are working from home – some partially, some full-time and some not at all – the questions about control become both more versatile and more critical from the viewpoint of employee experience.
How to best effect control – when and in which way – is an issue that cuts across a number of different aspects of both work and the employee/employer contract. In attracting and keeping the best talent, it will become a critical challenge, but also opening all new windows of opportunity when carried out properly.
The remote work experiment has made us question the long-standing terms of what we give and what we get from our working lives. For now, the future of work is still unclear — instead, we are entering an era of prototyping what the future of work could look like. In doing so, we must be careful not to confuse the early indicators with a proof of long-term success.