Take time off and move office functions online: 10 ways to win at the new way of working | The new rules of work

Employers need to provide the digital tools to enable staff to get work done.
Photograph: Branko Starcevic/Stocksy United

As each day passes, we’re constantly adjusting to the realities of our “new normal”. And in the unsettled world of work, worries about health and safety are compounded by other anxieties – with companies concerned about employee wellbeing, workplace services, and business continuity. Indeed, the need for organisations to continue operating has been one of the few constants of 2020.

The good news is that new practices have evolved to keep businesses up and running and to protect employees. Here are 10 strategies and measures business leaders can implement to ensure this new way of working keeps working for everyone:

1. Companies need to recognise the importance of supporting employees’ mental health
Businesses have long known the importance of financial resilience. But this year, many have learned the importance of “emotional resilience” – something that can only be achieved by being supportive of employees’ mental health. Businesses need to acknowledge that Covid-19 has affected us all – and has caused a rise in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Business leaders need to support employees through a variety of measures, including keeping in regular contact, focusing on work-life balance, and promoting access to support services. Above all, managers need to show understanding and flexibility.

2. Guard against the emergence of a two-tier workforce
Some employees may be happier to come into the office more regularly, while others might prefer heeding government advice to work from home where possible. But it’s important to guard against the emergence of an inefficient two-tiered workforce, where teamwork can be hampered by feelings of resentment.

Focus instead on integrating your workforce and treating all employees fairly, no matter where they work from. Doing so will decrease the feeling of being left out – something remote workers are more likely to report experiencing – and increase belonging and teamwork.

After all, work isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Workplaces are diverse – comprising traditional offices, call centre operations, manufacturing floors, retail locations, and more.

3. In-house safety measures need to be taken seriously
Leading digital workflow company ServiceNow released a global survey fielded by Wakefield Research on how Covid-19 is changing work for executives and employees. Out of the 9,000 respondents who took part, 60% of employees felt concerned that their company will prioritise business continuity over workplace safety. Business leaders must commit to following critical safety protocols such as completing Covid-19 risk assessments, wearing face coverings, providing hand sanitiser and maintaining social distancing.

4. Working from home shouldn’t limit career-growth opportunities
A real concern for employees currently working remotely is that continuing to do so will limit the chances of professional development. Indeed, this is already happening for some. Across the five industries surveyed by ServiceNow, 31% of employees say their growth opportunities have decreased during the pandemic. Companies need to ensure developmental opportunities are available to both remote and in-house staff.

Millennial using iPad at work at high tech office

While some employees may need to keep working remotely, others may be keen to get back to the office. Photograph: Trinette Reed/Stocksy United

5. Businesses need to digitise more rapidly than they already have
Fifty percent of executives and 53% of employees surveyed by ServiceNow believe that transitioning to new ways of working will be more challenging than the initial adjustment to remote work. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that most businesses in the survey were at a digital disadvantage. Ninety-one percent of executives say they still have offline workflows. Many months into the pandemic, companies are still falling behind, having not implemented fully integrated systems to manage digital workflows.

6. Be aware of burnout
Unfortunately, working from home can make people even more anxious about booking time off work. Leadership needs to stress that time off is essential and encourage employees to take time away from the office – even if that office is in their kitchen. Burnout leads to decreased productivity, so it is beneficial for both employees and employers to encourage a work-life balance.

7. Employees’ working hours need to be respected
For some employees, working from home translates into working all the time. They may feel like they need to overwork themselves to prove they’re doing a good job or simply have a hard time stopping without the ritual of leaving a physical office. Managers should emphasise that work done during normal office hours is valued, and model this behaviour by working reasonable hours themselves.

8. Respect your employees’ work preferences
While it should go without saying that staff shouldn’t be pressured into the office against government advice, there are other reasons to remain flexible about office working. Some people are high-risk for Covid-19 or may live with someone who is. No one should be made to feel that this will impact their job security or career prospects. Equally, however, some employees who don’t have homes conducive to remote work may want to get back into the office as soon as possible. By supporting each individual’s personal preference, business leaders demonstrate the caring and respect that leads to lasting employee loyalty.

9. Safety measures beyond government requirements are a good move
Since the launch of the ServiceNow Safe Workplace suite, more than 550 organisations have downloaded the apps. This includes employee readiness surveys, health and safety testing, and automated contact tracing to help businesses reduce workplace transmission of Covid-19.

10. Provide the digital tools that make it easy to get work done
Covid-19 accelerated the need for digital transformation for companies across the board. This was especially true as businesses scrambled to support the abrupt transition to remote work. Employees whose companies already had digital workflows and platforms in place were able to keep working far easier than those that still relied on manual, offline processes.

By delivering employees the right digital experience, business leaders can increase engagement, improve productivity, and maintain business continuity. Just as importantly, by leaning into digital transformation now, companies will be better equipped to survive and thrive during the current crisis – and whatever disruptions come next.

If your business has yet to adapt a digital workflow platform to support cross-functional collaboration, now is the time.

However work works right now, you can do it confidently with the ServiceNow Safe Workplace suite. Learn more at servicenow.co.uk

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