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Future of Work

The jobs and workplaces we left in March may never be the same. Employees and bosses must embrace a new landscape.

by Ahmad Graves-El

The days of an employer looking at an employee as merely a means to an end to fatten his/her own pockets are in the rearview mirror. The coronavirus pandemic is currently causing a seismic shift in how business owners think about the way they interact and manage their workers.

Business owners across the world are beginning to understand that by exhibiting empathy and compassion for their employees, as well as making them feel safe in their workplace environs—whether it be in the office or the home—will benefit all.

The future of work, if all goes well, will consist of everyone profiting—from shareholders to stakeholders. These profits will not only include continuing financial gains for business owners but will also include the emotional and spiritual elevation of the hardworking individuals whose very presence keeps those businesses afloat.

“The idea of an employee experience has risen to the top of the priority list,” said Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant with Insperity Recruiting Services, at a recent Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce Zoom meeting.

The topics on her agenda included:

• Where are We Now? Needs in the Current State

• Where Do We Go From Here?

• Most Discussed Changes in the Future State

Chapman shared some tips on how employers can find “greater access to talent, lower costs and higher productivity” by substantially improving the employee experience in the present as well as post-pandemic.

“Employers must create great culture, cohesion, sense of belonging, common focus, and shared trust,” Chapman said, during the Insperity Reinventing the Workforce Model Post COVID-19 presentation.

Chapman also noted that it’s time for companies to begin “focusing on inspiring human potential rather than simply driving productivity.”

Since 1971, the world’s leading business people across the spectrum—including politics and media—meet to discuss global affairs at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.

Earlier this year, the WEF published the Davos Manifesto 2020: The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The manifesto shares a vision on how companies should proceed for the future.

Some of the points mentioned in the document include:

• A company treats its people with dignity and respect.

• It honours diversity and strives for continuous improvements in working conditions and employee well-being;

• It consciously protects our biosphere and champions a circular, shared and regenerative economy;

• A company is more than an economic unit generating wealth. It fulfills human and societal aspirations as part of the broader social system.

Chapman referenced the Davos Manifesto during her presentation. “All the corporation’s stakeholders, not just their shareholders, but their workers, their community, their partners are every bit as valuable as their investor shareholders,” she said.

While we are still mired in the months-long public health emergency, one of the biggest topics of discussion taking place regarding the future of work, is the “going back to work in the office versus the working from home” debate.

Many observers, including Chapman, believe the future of work will consist of a hybrid of onsite and remote working.

This subject has caused a lot of distress for employees. It’s a subject that Chapman says must be addressed by employers in a caring and thoughtful manner.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety out there,” she said, “and that can be paralyzing.”

The people who come back to the office need to feel comfortable and safe in that space. They need to know that they can do their work in the office without contracting the virus.

The people who work remotely need to feel comfortable and know that they are being given the “same opportunities and face time” as those who are in the office.

According to Chapman, communication and transparency from the top is the solution to this conundrum.

“Managers and supervisors need to compassionately listen to employees’ questions and concerns during the pandemic,” she said.

Chapman also noted that employers need to “emphasize two-way communication to quickly identify and resolve employee issues.”

She suggested that employers should be proactive in staying connected with their workers and to share “positive stories and successes of employees during this time.” This will create a positive environment and work culture for all.

Chapman expressed the importance of employers being mindful of their employees’ non-work stress in addition to their work stress during the pandemic. The mental health component of a company’s employees is an important aspect for employers to consider, in this day and age.

“We may be open for business, but the employee experience is way broader than just what’s inside our building,” she said. “Continued disruptions in their daily [lives], that’s going to drain productivity.”

Chapman advised that employers begin to contemplate on making changes to their current healthcare packages focusing on mental health, with considerable input from their employees. This will allow the workers to feel good about being involved in the process.

“The future of work showed up on March 13th,” Chapman said. And in her mind, as well as others, the company that displays genuine empathy and compassion for its employees will be a successful company.