'Ultimately, the key question to ask is: how do we reinvent work to be better'
The world’s greatest working from home experiment has shown many of us the value of technology, according to Deloitte Australia Human Capital Leader, Pip Dexter.
However, it has also amplified the human element of work and life. Indeed, colleagues have seen the inside of our homes on video, giving us the ability to engage with anyone from anywhere rather than flying, and reducing commute times to give us more time to exercise or be with family.
Dexter’s comments come as new Deloitte research has found that as COVID-19 restrictions ease and business determines how to return to work, corporate Australia has a short window to reimagine what the new world of work will look like and how to make it better - with a stronger focus on wellbeing.
In its 10th annual 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” Deloitte examines the top workforce trends for 2020 and ways business leaders can better blend technology and people to create lasting value for themselves, their organisations, and society at large.
Having surveyed approximately 55,000 business leaders over 10 years, this is the largest longitudinal study of its kind.
The top two global trends this year are wellbeing and belonging. Seventy-nine percent of global respondents said fostering a sense of belonging in the workforce was important or very important to their organisation’s success in the next 12-18 months.
On the belonging front, corporate purpose will be the glue that brings workers together, back into the office, post COVID-19.
Eighty percent of organisations globally said worker wellbeing is important or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months, but only 12% say they are very ready to address this issue.
Dexter said the challenge and opportunity now for business leaders is to ask: how do we avoid going back to what we had before?
“How do we make work better for humans, from a wellbeing perspective, as well as continue to use technology in a way that enriches the human work experience? Beyond the practical social distancing requirements, leaders need to be deliberate about taking this time for purposeful reflection: what is it that we want to retain about how we work now? How might we reimagine our work? How can we use technology more deliberately? Can we use this opportunity to redesign work around life, not life around work, to help our people be more productive?
“Ultimately, the key question to ask is: how do we reinvent work to be better?”
The research also noted that while many organisations have wellbeing programs, these typically focus on the health and wellbeing of individuals, rather than considering the wellbeing of the entire worker population through the redesign of work.
Moreover, 79% of this year’s respondents report that their organisation’s strategy does not explicitly seek to integrate wellbeing into the design of work—representing a huge missed opportunity.
Some of the ways business can weave wellbeing into how we work in the future include:
- Providing the technology to enable people to work from anywhere (as many have done during the pandemic)
- Increasing flexible working practices (e.g. 4-day work weeks, staggering start and finish times)
- Introducing wellness behaviours into everyday work (e.g. walking meetings, meditation and mindfulness practices)
- Redesigning the physical workspace (e.g. standing desks, social distancing measures, meditation rooms, on-site gyms)
Dexter said the research shows that a business focus on wellbeing can be achieved by making thoughtful adjustments to how, when, where, and by whom work is done.
“It could mean structuring work so that performance does not depend on any single individual, making it possible for all workers and leaders to take meaningful leaves of absence,” said Dexter.
“Or it can mean giving workers more control over when and where they work, so that they can work at the times and places that they feel most productive.”
Dexter added that there are mixed feelings about the post-COVID workplace: some people can’t wait to go back to the office, while some don’t want to return at all, they prefer working at home.
“So, with people’s wellbeing now of paramount importance, leaders need to ask: what does the hybrid workplace look like? How do we create a virtual workplace and what will the purpose of our physical workplace be?”
2020 will focus on building resilience
In addition to giving workers the opportunity to reflect on their work life balance, the COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses and workers to rapidly reinvent themselves in order to survive.
“While this crisis has been very difficult in a number of ways, it has made many of us realise just how quickly we can reskill and how resilient we actually are,” said Dexter.
“Smart organisations will start teaching resilience as part of their professional development, giving their workers new skills to adapt to an increasingly technology-driven future and also the aptitude to manage (and thrive) in an uncertain world. In the future, adaptability will be a key, in demand, skill – the ability to adapt to change rapidly is a key requirement now. Those who can adapt faster, will thrive.”
The Human Capital Trends survey noted that even before the pandemic, organisations were struggling to navigate the fast-changing skills landscape, with 53% of respondents saying that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years.
Seventy-three percent of respondents saw organisations as responsible for workforce development, compared with just 19% seeing this as the role of educational institutions.
According to Deloitte, there are five shifts that organisations need to make to help build better resilience for themselves and their workers:
- From building skills to cultivating capabilities – the ability to learn new skills quickly will become increasingly important for professionals to remain relevant
- From focusing on short-term skill gaps to better engaging workers’ desire to learn and grow – 54% of global respondents believe individuals are responsible for their own professional development—putting workers in the driver’s seat to own their careers.
- From formal learning to learning on the job - research shows that learning through experience yields better learning gains and retention than traditional classroom instruction.
- From being paid to work, to being paid to learn – given the importance of continual reinvention to an organisation’s business strategy, organisations need to create incentives that motivate people to continuously learn, adapt, and improve, both at the individual level and the team level.
- Prepare your people to benefit society, not just the business - the most effective organisations will employ an approach to workforce capability building that considers not only their business needs but the needs of the workers, suppliers, customers, and communities in which they operate.