If the workplace ramifications of COVID-19 are a time machine to the future, as Anne Maire Slaughter, CEO of New America, suggests, we could be in big trouble.

Work-from-home policies implemented worldwide had resulted in 45 percent of employees attending several meetings during the pandemic more than when they were in the office. While working remotely, 40 percent of employees reported feeling mentally exhausted from video calls. When compared to working at home, 59 percent of employees report feeling more cyber secure at work.

More meetings, more mental exhaustion, and more cyber-attacks are on the horizon. It is not the work future that any of us hoped for, but it is the reality that many of us continue to live. We brought together three experts for a recent SAP Think Tank discussion to help us make sense of this new and now standard way of working.

Working From Home Often Presents Unique Challenges:

First, Dr. Autumn Krauss, Principal Scientist on the SAP SuccessFactors HR Research Team, emphasizes that telecommuting is not new or novel. It was first proposed in 1973 to address the energy crisis and transportation issues. Then, in 2010 and beyond, several companies began as remote-only operations.

The workplace gig economy quickly took off, and freelancers could travel the world while working from wherever they pleased. However, the COVID-19 work from home (WFH) situation differs from the distributed workforce structures or remote work culture promoted before 2020.

Working from home during a pandemic, according to Dr. Krauss, means your children are not present because they are at school. Alternatively, you can leave your house to go to the gym or meet up with friends for lunch, happy hour, or a coffee during the workday.

Working From Home Is Evolving After the Pandemic:

According to Jonathan Pearce, a Consulting Principal who leads Deloitte’s Workforce Strategy practice, business leaders are segmenting into three main buckets as they address COVID-19 workplace needs.

On the other end of the spectrum, Pinterest CFO Todd Morgenfeld discusses how a distributed workforce will allow for a broader range of backgrounds, allowing technology companies to innovate faster. Indeed, the ability to work from home is more inclusive, especially for women who frequently have to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.

Then there are the dynamic stabilizers. These are the company leaders who recognize that the work-from-home reality is not a passing fad and must create a culture to accommodate it. Even so, these leaders see the need for future in-person meet-ups, workspaces, and other opportunities for better collaboration and team building.

Challenges for Employees:

Dimitar Niklev, an EMEA North Marketing Lead at SAP, believes that what works for one employee, let alone one company, will not work for everyone. Working from home – even if not during a pandemic – can be challenging to adjust to. It’s critical, he says, to develop habits that allow you to disconnect in the same way you would in a physical office when you’re not there.

Leaders must empower their employees to decline additional video calls and meetings to free up time for more in-depth work to achieve autonomy. Leaders may even need to reconsider how they structure their teams and approval processes to foster more cross-departmental collaboration– which does not have to occur simultaneously. This boosts productivity and makes employees feel more connected, supported, and in control of their work-life balance.

Debongo believes that while the mass shift to working from home in 2020 may have thrown us into a new reality, people remain the same. Contact us and tell us what are your thoughts on the same.

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