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2020 the “new normal” of work

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This year we observe some changes in what we used to consider “traditional work process”. Some of them have already happened, others are yet to come, but all forming 2020 the “new normal” of work. You can find below some trends that we’ve noticed and a wish of ours for the future.

Increase of home office

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Remote working is an opportunity for companies to change their way of working sustainably. Think of less office space, less time for travel to the office, fewer business trips, shorter breaks. Feedback from the market seems to indicate that remote workers are also less likely to take short absences due to illness. 

A recent poll of the research company Gartner showed that 41% of employees will likely work remotely, at least part of the time, after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.

Offices are not to be forgotten…yet

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The office spaces are still not to be forgotten tough. There are important aspects of office work environment like the collaboration, socializing and team spirit that are more difficult to be passed through a conference call or a video meeting conversation.

Some best practices advise social meetings, not related to any work activities, to be scheduled. This way employees feel part of the team and overcome the factor of isolation.

Shorter breaks

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Another health-related topic is employees’ attitude towards small and lunch breaks during home office. According to a 2020 “new normal” of work research in Austria, conducted on behalf of an employee benefits company “Sodexo”, employees not only work longer at home, but also take shorter or no breaks. Out of 530 employees, participating in the study, only six percent were skipping the lunch breaks. Whereas when working from home that percentage grows to twelve.

Freelance expansion

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The economic lock down has caused many workers to lose their jobs. Many organizations responded to the pandemic’s economic impact by reducing their contractor budgets, at least at the beginning.

Organizations will continue to use contingent workers and even expand their coverage to maintain higher flexibility in workforce management.

“Our research finds that 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure”, says Brian Kropp, vice president of Gartner.

What is contingent work?

Traditional workers have long term employer-employee relationship in which the worker is paid a salary. Outside of that arrangement, work tends to be temporary or project-based workers are hired to complete a particular task for certain period of time. Coordination of jobs through an on-demand company reduces entry and operating costs for providers. On top of this it allows workers’ participation to be more transitory in gig markets.

What we wish for

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Four days working week

Another idea, less widely tested than telecommuting, has been discussed: the four-day work week. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the possibility of a shortened work week. This should serve as a way to allocate jobs, encourage local tourism, help with work-life balance and increase productivity.

A four-day work week must not be confused with a compressed schedule that has workers squeeze 40 hours of work into four days. A true four-day workweek entails full-timers clocking about 30 hours instead of 40.

The most progressive shorter work week means no salary reductions. This sounds crazy, but it rests on peer-reviewed research into shorter work weeks, which finds workers can be as productive in 30 hours as they are in 40, because they waste less time and are better-rested.

There are working examples of this idea already being implemented, but whether it could be used on a bigger scale is still to be tested and decided.  

Transition from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience

Build organizations around increased agility and flexibility and formalize how processes can change. Also, provide employees with varied, adaptive and flexible roles so they acquire cross-functional knowledge and training.

While companies were focused on efficiencies, this has also created fragilities, as systems are not flexible enough to respond to disruptions.

The economy is like a living organism that is changing even without pandemics. Covid-19 has shifted our focus away from the daily hassle as we knew it and accelerated processes that had already begun.

Meet the “new normal” and make the desired and necessary changes for good.

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