The Future of Work: Redesigned by Putting People First

Triggered by COVID-19, many enterprises have accelerated their adoption of digital technologies

Customer interactions, supply chain integration and day-to-day operations have all been significantly impacted. Perhaps one of the most substantial impacts has been observed on ways of working. Not only the workplaces, but also the mindset, the skillset and the tools required are being transformed. Whether or not the changes in this domain will stick and how they will evolve in the longer run are hot topics for discussion.

When it comes to workplaces, one size certainly does not fit all. Where remote working has been welcomed by a wide range of companies, certain others regard it as a temporary “glitch” that will be corrected after the pandemic. The former group is likely to continue flexible working schemes, either hybrid or totally remote, and the latter will be “back to the office” as soon as they can. Certainly, there are pros and cons associated with both approaches and different views on each.

The evolution of working schemes: people power

 When discussing the evolution of working schemes, many of the same issues arise. All can and need to be addressed by putting people first.

Be considerate about mental fatigue

A clear start and finish of the working day helps people manage their cognitive load. Online meeting platforms have made this easier with the ability to schedule meetings and provide increased connectivity.

However, the most efficient use of online platforms and connectivity are yet to be established. Due to the ease of scheduling, back-to-back meetings and even afterwork hour meetings are common. As a result, many employees are feeling the pressure, especially during a time that encourages people to take more time to rest and disconnect. Neither working from home nor working at the office provides that well enough, yet.

Striking the hybrid balance

While many do not want to lose the flexibility of not having to go to the office every day, in-person interactions are also sought after from time to time. After all, it’s next to meaningless to go to the office to join an online meeting with colleagues working from home. Instead, the office presents the opportunity for activities such as brainstorming, objective-setting, onboarding people and coaching.

Pay attention to fairness

There seems to be a concern about being “isolated” in hybrid or remote working schemes. People who return to the office are more likely to have casual chats or in-person meetings with colleagues and senior executives. This is likely to make those working from home feel excluded, feeding into concerns about being treated unfairly in terms of recognition, promotion and benefits.

 The significance of changing mindsets, developing skills & enhancing tools

COVID-19 forced enterprises to rethink their approach to the existing structures, skill sets and tools required in an organisation.

Connect better than ever

The new way of working will require easier access to knowledge and faster decision-making, making connectivity a main pillar. The implication is; rather than having multiple tiers of bosses and hierarchical processes, a meshed network of teams and fast decision-making are likely to prevail. Moreover, developing a network of external partners will be critical in utilising the knowledge and know-how of the ecosystem and is likely to foster growth.

Mind the skills gap

 Increasing digitalisation and automation requires new skill sets. In a more connected work environment, developing knowledge in other areas outside your own will be critical. This challenges companies to have a good understanding of how digital transformation is going to impact their own skills and knowledge pool. As a result, the tendency to move from education-based hiring to experience-based hiring is likely to increase. In addition, upskilling – developing new skills in the current role – and reskilling – developing new capabilities to take new roles – will be continuous in a vibrant and learning organisation. This approach will make sure the company’s operations run seamlessly. It also shows that employees are valued while motivating them by developing new skills.

Adapt quicker than ever

Agility and productivity of operations will continue to be a key ingredient for success. This poses a challenge to redesign systems and processes to enhance resilience and adaptability. Incorporating modular applications, deploying cloud-based services, and establishing an enterprise-wide data governance are also likely to be pervasive.

 Looking to the future

 COVID-19 has forced almost all organisations to work in a completely new capacity with many surprisingly quick to respond to the change. They have tested new methods, learned on the go, and survived the crisis. Now that they have survived, it is time to prosper and future-proof their organisations.

The future requires a human-centric approach, putting people’s needs, preferences and capabilities at the core. With a human-centric mindset, companies should keep experimenting, learning, and iterating to address the new challenges and establish the optimal way of working.

About the Author

Halil Aksu is CEO and co-founder of Digitopia. From 2003-2013, Halil was an executive partner at Gartner, where he coached and supported leading CIO’s to become even more successful. In 2014 he was appointed as an advisor for FITSolution to help the company grow and expand. With strong experience of working in digitalisation, he went on to found Türkiye Yapay Zeka İnisiyatifi (TRAI) in 2017, an information and technology service, before co-founding Digitopia in 2019 – the leading digital maturity consultancy, changing the way businesses drive digital transformation.