When workforce specialist Adecco quizzed 8,000 people around the world earlier this year about how the pandemic had shifted their thinking about work it learned that there was fresh appetite for a hybrid approach – people wanted to see tasks split almost equally between home (51%) and office (49%).
Respondents to the survey – which included a sizable cohort from Australia – also revealed that 69% believed future contracts should be based on results rather than hours worked. Almost seven out of ten (69%) believed they would benefit from digital upskilling as they prepared for the new world of work.
For many digital native businesses, the transition to online work has been yes, challenging – but it has rarely proven entirely disruptive. For businesses with strong digital foundations and the ability to connect to customers online as well as in person, the transition has been relatively friction-free. And much of the change will be long-lasting according to Andrew Todd, chief technology officer at Iress.
He says that; "I anticipate an increase in the desire to find the best people regardless of where they are located. This combined with existing remote working will drive a requirement to change employee onboarding processes, ways of measuring and managing outcomes and offboarding processes – the whole employee lifecycle. This leads to thinking about security, data protection and management, and an even stronger push to cloud-based services to enable 'secure anywhere access'.
"It will definitely continue to require an adjustment in how teams collaborate, the technologies and processes to support this, and how to do that with a mindset of permanency, as changes won't be short lived."
Iress itself has a global workforce of more than 2,000 and digital engagement and online collaboration are woven through the company's DNA.
That meant that when the pandemic struck, the company was able to rapidly adapt, ensuring business continuity and uninterrupted service for its financial services customers who rely on it for the advice and investment management software that allows them to then develop and manage strategies for their clients.
Iress also put its experience working as a largely digital business to good use, helping clients transition to the new way of working.
Todd says that organisations which relied on manual or paper-based processes, and also on clients actually visiting them in an office had faced the biggest hurdles, allowing Iress to respond quickly and efficiently.
The organisation was already introducing new tools and processes to better enable remote collaboration when the pandemic struck. By accelerating that, implementing new policies and processes and cultivating a culture where communications and collaboration are prioritised, the organisation was able to ensure business continuity and high levels of customer support.
That included helping customers themselves transition to a digital-only engagement with staff and clients.
Iress' online hub for example provides free technology-related information and support for the financial services industry. This was made available to all organisations – not just clients. Visitors to the hub can access a range of useful insights and tools that address topics ranging from how to continue to support clients while working remotely through to how to access information securely when workers are remote and mobile.
Looking ahead Todd says that; "Perhaps similar to how consumerisation is quickly changing the expectations of business software, COVID is going to change the expectations and new needs of consumers and require a higher level of digitisation and digital engagement. "
Success, he says, will come from being able to rapidly respond to the changing needs of customers and taking a strategic approach in terms of organising work and the workplace.
Todd says that besides exploring digital tools to support people working remotely it's important that business leaders impress on their teams the need to be clear about the purpose of their work, so that they stay focussed on what is important and the outcomes that are required. Back to back Zoom calls may confer a sense of "busyness" but if they are not clearly aligned to a required work outcome they merely inject noise into someone's day and a sense of dissatisfaction over the longer term.
He also cautions against re-introducing techniques such as timesheets or command and control hierarchies to attempt to keep track of employees working remotely – but instead recommends using technology to build stronger, well connected and communicative teams, and building trust with employees by focusing on outcomes – an approach that will stand business in good stead as it prepares for the new world of work.
If you're in the financial services industry, make sure you have the right tools and information to support your business.