After all, the near instant transition to working from home has not only altered the workplace, but also employee roles. Let us find out if the dismantling of work structure will give way to a permanent new arrangement, or companies will revert to the post-Covid set-up after the pandemic. Importantly, how should one prepare for changes that are likely to happen in the next few years?
How will the office change?
Industry experts believe the change is already taking place. “The way we work has altered forever and the concept of physical location has undergone a transformation,” says Sanjay Shetty, Head, Strategic Account Management, Randstad.
Remote working, hot desking: What this essentially means is that gig economy, which was considered a marginal option, may become a permanent feature for sectors where physical presence is not mandatory. So while manufacturing, security or healthcare may still require people to be in office at all times, in the services and knowledge sectors, people may not return to offices completely. “Companies are starting to identify roles which may not require employees to come to office at all and can permanently work from home; roles that may see some employees come to office for a fixed number of days in a month; and the remaining who may have to be in office every day,” says Shetty.
“It will become important to define the purpose of office rather than where the office is,” says Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice-President, TeamLease Services. So its usage will be reconfigured and could be used only for meetings, conferences or training, while individuals work remotely. “For employees who don’t come in regularly, the concept of ‘hot desking’ could catch up,” says Sharma. Flexible seating could replace permanent desks and an employee may need to book a terminal if he is planning to come and work in office.
A direct consequence of working from home will also be that companies may let go of expensive rented offices or opt for smaller offices to accommodate the lesser number of full-time or flexi employees.
“As a downside, the reduced human interaction will make cross-functional execution tougher and impact their mental health. Thus remote working may see some cutbacks after the pandemic,” says Devashish Chakravarty, career coach, mentor and author of Your Sorting Hat.
Outcome-based performance: A crucial fallout of remote working is that an employee’s performance will be assessed and appraised purely on outcome instead of the number of hours he logs in or his equation with the boss. “The number of measurable metrics for performance will increase as opposed to the team leader’s judgement of performance,” says Chakravarty. It will no longer matter when a person works as long as he meets the deadlines and delivers on time.
It also means that governance and monitoring tools will become focused on outcome and productivity instead of being based on the traditional Lotus Notes, used earlier to keep track of an employee’s attendance. On the other hand, it’s possible that companies use controlling software and hardware on work devices, including laptops and cell phones, to monitor the time that is spent by an employee online.
Borderless recruits: With remote working rendering geographical location redundant, there will suddenly be more employment opportunities because the new borderless employees can be recruited from any part of the country. This means that being in a metro or a tier 1 city may not be contingent to landing a good, high-paying job.
Another change could be a rise in contractual or contingent workforce rather than full-time employees. A rise in outcome-based consultant jobs may mean people could work for several firms instead of one, and earn as much. Employees with full-time jobs could also take on other projects without being barred by the employer from doing so.
Will your job profile alter? Along with the change in workplace, there may be a modification of employee roles, as well as creation of new jobs options.
“There will be a shift in critical skills and competencies as remote work and flexibility increases. Employers will look at skills like agility, transparency and resilience in the coming times,” says Priti Singh, Senior Vice-President, HR, South Asia, Mastercard.
New & redundant jobs: As more businesses shift online and employees work remotely, new job options catering to tech-oriented requirements will get a boost (
Which jobs will be in high demand?). “Jobs in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, big data analytics, cloud computing/computer technology, applied sciences and IT will be sought after. To stay relevant, workers will need to be proficient in digital skills such as virtual collaboration, communication, analysing data or managing remote teams, in any industry,” says Ramananda SG, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing, Pearson India.
While automation may replace basic manual jobs, companies may try to match functional knowledge with tech as they reskill their employees with domain knowledge, instead of replacing them. So the tasks that required physical interaction, such as demonstrating new products to consumers will be replaced by virtual reality or simulation. Hence, the higher need for tech-savvy workers who can do this.
Organisational hierarchy: As performance takes priority, the traditional office hierarchies and pyramids may flatten out and become more horizontal rather than vertical. As physical supervision becomes redundant and workforces reduce, employees could take on multiple roles, eliminating junior or very senior roles. “However, companies are not making any drastic or immediate changes in their hierarchies right now,” says Shetty.
Salary structure: The biggest change could be the shift from fixed to variable pay. With remuneration linked to productivity and outcome rather than experience or seniority, there might be a shift to variablising of costs. Instead of fixed salary bands and rigid appraisal structures like the bell curve, there is likely to be more fluidity between bands. “The pay will depend on the value you bring to the organisation, not your experience,” says Sharma.
There could also be a change in salary structure, with allowances like conveyance or entertainment being replaced by those for equipment, infrastructure and technology for work-from-home employees.
More options for women: “Women who would have dropped out of active workforce for family or other reasons can seek full-time employment,” says Sharma. Adds Chakravarty: “Work-from-home options increase employability and career growth for women who can’t commute or spend long hours outside home.” More importantly, their salary will not depend on the number of hours but on productivity.
How to adapt to the new normal at work
To ensure that you remain relevant and retain mental stability, it is essential to keep pace with the altered work scenario. Here’s how.
Be more flexible & open-minded:
As office space and its usage undergo a change, job profiles, organisational hierarchy and salary structure are also likely to be altered. To be able to remain relevant, you need to be flexible and learn to accept these changes. If you cannot keep pace with the new normal in your existing set-up, you may have to fi nd a new job or role for yourself.
Be more digitally & tech savvy:
With the increasing reliance on the Internet to secure jobs and work remotely, it is essential to master this medium, be it in interaction, presentations or transactions. Besides, automation of jobs means that new tech-driven skills will replace manual work. So, remain one step ahead and hone your tech and digital skills before you are forced to, or worse, replaced by a machine or someone who can operate these better.
Upskill yourself more regularly:
As the demand for new jobs like cyber security specialists or data scientists increases, you will not only need to learn new skills but also constantly upgrade and update yourself. This will not only help you make a transition to a more relevant role, but importantly, the remuneration will increase with your knowledge base and you are likely to be paid better if you have a Master’s or a PhD in cloud computing or data science.
Improve communication skills:
Since inter-personal interaction is being replaced more and more by digital communication, you will need to enhance your communication skills. With the elimination of body language and non-verbal cues, the focus will be on verbal interaction. To be more effective and convincing, you will have to hone your oratorical skills. So, be it a job interview, sales call, conversation with clients or group meetings, you must learn to be more eloquent and articulate.
Take time to disconnect:
A big drawback of working remotely is that you may fi nd it diffi cult to disengage from work. If you are calling and receiving calls from work at all hours, you will not only increase your own stress but also impose on your colleagues who may not want to be disturbed. Maintain a schedule and selfdiscipline, which sees you putting in a fi xed number of hours at work. After this, disengage completely and interact with family or involve yourself in other activities.
Take care of mental health, retain human connection:
A critical factor that cannot be ignored in the new work normal is your state of mind. Working from home may be convenient, but being completely cut off from your colleagues and friends can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. So even as HR personnel boost employees’ mental health with greater engagement, you must do what you can to keep yourself healthy, be it through yoga and meditation or increasing your interaction with friends and colleagues.
Engage in personal branding:
Since you will be heard more than you’re seen, and your performance will be based on outcome, not the number of hours you put in at work, you will have to learn to make your presence felt. While this is done best by increasing your productivity and delivering more, you will also have to maintain proper communication with your boss and seniors so that you are not overlooked or ignored.