How to navigate the future of work
Design a successful talent management plan for the new normal.
The evolution of Covid-19 into a global crisis occurred with unprecedented velocity and momentum. It has led to fundamental changes in the way we live and work, from our patterns of consumption to our workplace dynamics. Increasingly sophisticated digital technologies such as video conferencing and messaging platforms are being adopted, allowing office work to be performed effectively from anywhere. There is a greater emphasis on health, with permanent increases in healthcare spending by both individuals and governments.
What will this mean for organisations?
In this article, we provide business leaders with action-based insights, developed from leading organisational psychology research, on how the workplace will be reimagined, how the emerging cultural challenge can be dealt with and the guiding principles which will underpin the transformation.
1. Reconceptualise the meaning of work.
Employees returning to work will likely have different expectations than before. Individuals will have thought about their families, health and the purpose of work in their lives.
As a consequence, businesses must take initiative to reimagine themselves and their role in society. To fully engage the workforce, managers should ideate a clear message involving new beginnings and an original purpose, and then communicate this to employees. Meaningfulness and making a difference is a significant motivator at work and past research has demonstrated this.
In the wake of Covid-19, companies now have the opportunity to show whether or not they are genuinely committed to values such as inclusion, diversity and equity in the workplace.
2. Make the office a space for collaboration.
A significant challenge for organisations is restoring a sense of community and belonging. Social isolation and workplace loneliness has increased significantly during Covid-19 due to the transition to working from home.
As such, the office should become a place where people come to collaborate, solve problems with creativity, and build a community and identity. HR professionals should develop clear communication and collaboration structures, as well as new performance management and appraisal systems.
3. Encourage individual flexibility.
Individuals have varying needs, values, strengths and aspirations and it is important that work is designed to accommodate these differences.
Although there is a need for standardised HR practices, managers must also understand that giving autonomy and allowing flexibility, with effective sensemaking, will lead to more collaboration, innovation and performance.
On the other hand, the research indicates that for individuals at home, productive habits and systems are necessary to manage the boundaries between work and home.
4. Challenge yourself as a leader.
Good leadership is challenging, and especially so, given the transition to remote work. Some ways this may be achieved is through:
● Being clear about your values and in a way that will guide action;
● Understanding and discussing the mission and future of your organisation;
● Communicating an ambitious vision;
● Showing confidence that your goals can be achieved; and
● Being understanding towards employees who may not be able to perform their best amid a global pandemic and recession and offer ongoing mental health support.
5. Motivate employees by trusting them.
Although micromanaging employees may feel safer, it may undermine employees’ autonomy and motivation.
For example, nine-to-five may not need to be the regular working hours — individuals may choose to work from 7am and take a walk in the middle of the day and return to work; maintaining clear and open communication is key.
Managers can preserve employee wellbeing and performance by providing immediate resources such as information about working from home, employee assistance programs and access to counselling or training. Regular contact can be facilitated through video calls, in which feedback, support and inspiration can be a part of.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition of the virtual workplace. The experience of being a customer, an employee, a citizen and a human has fundamentally changed. In an era of digital disruption, organisations must listen, adapt, learn and reiterate and the time to act is now.
 Kniffin, K. M., Narayanan, J., Anseel, F., Antonakis, J., Ashford, S. P., Bakker, A. B., . . . Vugt, M. v. (2020). COVID-19 and the workplace: Implications, issues, and insights for future research and action. American Psychologist. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000716
 Grant, A. M., & Berg, J. M. 2010. Prosocial motivation at work: How making a difference makes a difference. Forthcoming in K. Cameron and G. Spreitzer (Eds.), Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Oxford University Press.