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What will the workplace look like in the ‘new normal’?

The move towards new digital ways of working has long been underway. But many organizations stumble on the journey. How will we implement effectively? What about migration? Deployment? What’s the right due diligence?

And then, seemingly overnight, the health crisis accelerated things. Workforces deserted physical offices and set up in remote locations and virtual spaces. Around the world, people now work as standard from their living rooms and kitchen tables. They solve tricky problems and make important decisions while juggling parental responsibilities and other personal commitments.

Experts predict that experiences during the pandemic may become foundational and will shape future working patterns in the ‘new normal’. This is likely to create challenges, but may well offer some advantages too. Here are a few scenarios of what the transition could bring:

1) Remote working becomes mainstream

Remote working is nothing new. But as a result of the current health crisis, it is likely to become even more mainstream. The current crisis is accelerating the greatest workplace transformations of our time.

As the shift towards more virtualized environments continues, leaders will continue to evolve their workforce planning and employee management. It won’t be easy. How will performance objectives be adapted? How will personal development strategies adjust? Even as lockdowns lift, the threat of recurring outbreaks and an ongoing pandemic will still exist. As such, remote working will continue to be an integral part of any workforce continuity strategy until a cure for the virus emerges.

2) More flexible working arrangements and ways of collaborating

Even before the current crisis, many companies have been promoting telecommuting. They increasingly see it as a vital way to encourage and enable flexible working. They rightly recognise that without it, it was harder to retain employees and potential returners with valuable skills and experience. Although many organizations and many sectors have been making progress – it’s hardly been universal. And never implemented on a massive scale.

The pandemic has catalyzed the widespread adoption of collaboration tools. Cloud-based offerings such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex will likely become a mainstay for workplace collaboration as flexible working gains momentum in the new norm. Organizations of all shapes and sizes will need to ensure that they have the right technological tools to suit the rise in new working patterns and collaboration modes.

3) Reduced need for office space as virtual collaborations expand

Before the pandemic, the common view was that offices were critical to working culture and productivity. As a result, companies vied for prime office space in major cities around the world. Many businesses focused on open-plan layouts and workplace designs that they felt aided collaboration.

These same organizations now face the various challenges and complexities of reintroducing furloughed staff to a post-lockdown workplace. As the first offices cautiously reopen, we will likely see attitudes continue to evolve. However, until a vaccine can be widely made available, the office experience is unlikely to go back to how it was.

This is even more the case as companies gain exposure to the efficacy of remote working. Many already wonder if remote working could possibly become the predominant mode of work in the future. Without a doubt, virtual collaboration will grow – bringing about a corresponding reduced need for physical centralized workspaces.

This could lead to huge financial savings without loss of productivity for organizations. And an upside for employees too; greater flexibility and work-life balance without the hassle of commuting.

4) Remote meetings and conferences become the norm

In the new normal, many more meetings will remain remote gatherings. People won’t seem as keen to travel without querying whether they should or could meet online instead. It certainly seems likely that this will be the default way of working for some time yet, as efforts to curb the virus continue in the post-lockdown era.

For organizations, there’s never been a more crucial time to start implementing the right collaboration stack as part of their business continuity strategy. Beyond keeping remote employees engaged, having the right technological tools enables them to stay connected with clients, customers and other stakeholders.

The traditional face-to-face meeting will still be an important and relevant option. They are after all, literally, more personal than a video meet-up. That said, the efficiency of these calls compared to the time and resources spent on travel is something that is becoming increasingly apparent.  

It’s this that’s driving more and more organizations to ramp up their adoption of these tools and to ensure staff are able to use them efficiently, effectively and securely – wherever they are working and whatever device they are using. Finding the right balance between the in-person and virtual experience will be key to making the new normal work.

Are you prepared for the new normal?

While most organizations would have had continuity plans in place to tackle disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, terrorists and cyber-attacks, it’s true to say that few were prepared for the disruption caused by the pandemic.

How the workplace will fully transform remains to be seen. For now, it’s clear that the new normal will be the result of a shift to a new digital paradigm. One based around a more virtual workplace.  

What will the workplace look like in the new normal?

I’ve outlined some possible – even probable – scenarios about the new normal we are heading towards. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

And is your organization ready for the new normal? Do you need assistance now to help with your post-lockdown workplace? To learn more about how your organization can benefit from the new ways of working through cloud communications solutions, read about our rapid response for business continuity solutions via the link below, or contact us today.

About the author

As Content Marketing and Campaigns Manager, Fiona oversees all marketing-related content initiatives within the APAC region. She has over a decade of collective experience in journalism, public relations and marketing communications across tech, finance and real estate industries.

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