According to the National Safety Council, “new normal” isn’t just a catch phrase. A new NSC report says after COVID-19, “the future world of work is going to look fundamentally different.”
The NSC report, State of the Response: The Future World of Work, highlights seven impactful changes related to the pandemic:
- Operations: The biggest operational change most organizations made during the pandemic was shifting to remote work. “Remote work will remain an option for the foreseeable future because many employees have found they can be productive outside traditional work settings.”
- Human Resources: Most of the business leaders interviewed for the report say the creation of flexible work policies was the most impactful HR change. About 65% say these policies will now become the norm.
- Stress, Mental Health and Wellbeing: All the business leaders interviewed said stress and mental health significantly affected operations. As a result, many are training managers and supervisors to notice the signs and symptoms of acute mental health or substance abuse issues.
- Communication: Almost 90% of interviewees said they use newsletters, emails and town hall meetings (via Zoom) to spread critical safety information. Use of technology in communication has changed, and not just Zoom. One organization used a video of a walk-through of the office to show what the work space was going to look like when employees returned.
- Organizational Culture: Many of the interviewees said the pandemic helped spotlight workplace safety and health, and motivated employees to care about it in a larger sense. The general public has also become more aware of workplace safety because of the pandemic. Several interviewees said public expectations about how companies should keep their workers safe will keep this issue in the spotlight.
- Technology: Forty-one percent of those interviewed said the use of mobile apps for symptom screening was the biggest tech change for their organization. The pandemic is expediting use of technology that might have otherwise occurred more slowly.
- Sustainability: The pandemic caused some employers to rethink their physical and carbon footprints. Companies are cutting down on office space. Others said they may be permanently reducing business-related travel.
The biggest lesson learned by those interviewed was the realization that their organizations are able to pivot better than they thought they could. Some found that after the transition to remote work environments they were more productive.
Something else the pandemic forced: breaking down organizational silos. The pandemic “ripped off the Band-Aid” by compelling employees to work together to find creative solutions.
Navigating the future
The NSC sees three pillars of influence that combine to form a framework for companies to navigate the future of work:
- Work Modalities: This includes changes in the ways work is performed. Examples: remote work, flexible schedules, reduced building occupancy and rethinking the need for work-related travel.
- Worker Expectations: These are changes employers have made during the pandemic to address employees’ comfort levels, wants and needs. They include consistent communication, a focus on stress and mental health, benefit increases (such as more paid sick days) and visible actions (such as physical distancing signage and deep cleaning).
- Work Enablers: These are changes organizations have made that have proven successful in mitigating many of the challenges of the pandemic. They include a renewed focus on safety and health, breaking down silos and encouraging more teamwork, use of mobile and video technology, and a digital transformation that includes use of automation and wearables.