The Future of Work – Hybrid Working Model Calling for New Management Practices
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in workers’ work preferences and employers’ attitudes towards remote work. While organizations have been forced to adopt remote working methods during strict quarantines, many plan to maintain remote working options for their employees and expand investments in communications and IT solutions to enable successful remote and hybrid working models.
While remote work has enabled employees to achieve better work-life balance, reduce commute time, improve social life, and manage family responsibilities, managing remote workers has been a challenge for employers. As the hybrid work model looks set to take hold, companies are investing in online management tools and in training and developing their managers to successfully manage remote teams and ensure a smooth transition for both those working in the office and remotely work.
Remote work remains a way forward
The pandemic has undoubtedly played a key role in driving remote work, prompting companies to invest in their online presence, remote working capabilities and digital tools to keep employees informed, connected and productive. With growing preferences for better work-life balance and cost savings among employees, enabling remote working will remain a top priority for businesses. According to Euromonitor International’s April 2021 Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey, nearly 70% of global industry professionals said they plan to expand remote work opportunities to ensure smooth business continuity in the event of potential future disruptions. The results of the same survey also show that remote work is expected to expand across all industries, with tech companies leading the trend. Industry specialists, even in more human-facing industries such as leisure and recreation, retail, travel and tourism, and hospitality, have also indicated fairly high potential for expanding remote work as they expect to invest in their digital presence, and some employees are allowing it to work from home.
Additionally, remote work enables organizations to attract a more diverse talent pool by removing geographic boundaries and enabling a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This is particularly beneficial for companies that want to fill positions with very specific skills that allow them to search for employees worldwide. Still, the full extent of the impact of global teams on work culture remains up for debate. For example, companies are considering equal pay system issues – if members of the same team work in very different countries in terms of their economic development and standard of living, should they be paid the same? While some suggest receiving equal pay for the same role, differing living standards and consumers’ purchasing power suggest that pay should be adjusted accordingly. As remote work and global talent acquisition continues to expand, these issues will attract increased attention, not only from corporations but also from governments aiming to facilitate hiring of their talent in the global marketplace and ensure fair taxation.
Ensuring business continuity requires investment in digital tools
Redesigning and executing digital strategies, as well as expanding e-commerce, improving customer communications and developing crisis response procedures were also among the top priorities for businesses, according to the results of Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey April 2021. In fact, during the COVID-19 lockdown, more than half of the industry professionals surveyed said their companies have already taken steps to expand their digital capabilities. Most importantly, companies have funded tools to make remote working easier by expanding VPN capacities and providing employees with online collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype and Zoom.
One in two companies in the survey also said they were communicating more frequently with their customers and internal teams to support day-to-day operations. Improved internal communications were expected to address concerns about worker productivity, empowerment and inclusion, and create a sense of connectedness and community among employees. However, too many virtual meetings and close monitoring of employees’ work can have the opposite effect. According to a Google Workplace survey (October 2021), 68% of respondents felt they were holding too many virtual meetings, putting their productivity and overall well-being at risk.
New management practices required in the age of the hybrid working model
As remote work continues to expand, companies will also look to bring back various benefits of face-to-face employee interaction such as building relationships, solving complex challenges, generating ideas, and facilitating better collaboration. As a result, companies are embracing the hybrid work model, which allows employees to combine remote and office work. Nearly 70% of respondents to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Industry: COVID-19 survey expressed a belief that the hybrid working model will become a standard practice in their organization.
To enable a successful shift to the hybrid work model, organizations must invest in new management practices alongside technology upgrades that support remote teamwork and collaboration. For example, a Mumbai-based events company has set up its virtual office on Metaverse, offering new ways to reach international clients and connect remote teams. Respondents to a Google Workplace survey pointed out that the lack of face-to-face interaction between employees and their managers when working remotely created a sense of distrust: Managers felt the need to monitor their teams more closely, while employees felt more comfortable with the increased monitoring felt stressed. In addition, survey respondents emphasize that limited networking opportunities also negatively impact employees’ career prospects. Businesses will face challenges in ensuring equal treatment for office and remote workers, while managers will need new skills and tools to ensure smooth operations and avoid over-micromanaging their workforce.
For further analysis, please watch Euromonitor International’s webinar on the future of work and education here.