When 2020 began, the world was excited for the New Year to bring positive changes and improvements to our personal and professional lives. The beginning of the year started with organizations re-evaluating how today’s job requirements have evolved in a way that may no longer be supported by traditional workplace norms. There’s growing concern that the standard 5-day, 40-hour workweek in an office setting causes employees unable to find a sustainable work-life balance, which leads them to be unsatisfied and frustrated at work rather than productive and efficient. Companies looked to study and analyze the implications of reducing hours worked and allowing employees the flexibility to work remotely.
Microsoft conducted a study to test a trial four-day workweek in Japan and found there was a 40% increase in productivity. Stanford University research reveals that remote employees are 13% better using their time efficiently than the traditional employee. These findings support that the way we work today may no longer align with the traditional workplace norms. These norms are reinforced on a global scale and there is a lot of hesitation to make changes, despite evidence that suggests adapting to a more flexible workplace model can benefit the employee and the employer.
On March 11th, 2020, the CDC announced that WHO officially declared the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak as a pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives around the world and, as it continues to evolve, we continue to make unprecedented adaptions in attempts to stop the spread of the virus. Across the globe, people must adjust to living in quarantine and social distancing; businesses, restaurants, and bars have been required to close, schools are no longer in session (if not with an on-line program), events are cancelled, and all ‘non-essential’ jobs are now asked to work from home. Humans rely heavily on the social constructions, like work, that shape their daily routines. The measures taken in attempts to stop the spread of the virus has resulted in sudden societal changes that disrupt the habits many rely on.
This pandemic has led every organization to ask, “Is it absolutely necessary for you to work on-site, 5 days a week for 40 hours, for society to continue functioning?” or “Can we find a way to use technological advances and the tools we have to continue conducting our business’ remotely?”
Many companies were already conducting most of their communication via phone, email, instant messaging, Slack, etc. Due to busy schedules and location restraints, a lot of businesses are heavily reliant on phone/email to meet business objectives. The companies that have been using a model that utilizes technology to conduct their business were able quickly respond to the pandemic and adhere to recommendations that allow their employees to work safely from home; they recognized that they have the adaptability, technology and jobs requirements that can be done remotely to make a seamless transition. For others that may not have the technology or tools in place may be forced to quickly implement, learn, and change this to adapt to being offsite during the pandemic. We of course recognize that there are jobs that truly do not have the luxury of being able to function remotely like: health care workers, essential jobs (grocery, food industry, delivery, pet stores) and supply chain positions (UPS, truck drivers, etc.). In many ways, every job in the workforce is going to be looked at in a different perspective once we can resume ‘normal’ life.
Organizations know that keeping their employee’s happy effects the value that employee can bring to the company. At the start of 2020, companies already recognized that work-life balance is more important to employees than ever before. They also recognized that rigid hour requirements or working on-site may not align with an employee’s ability to meet their job requirements.
COVID-19 has forced us to give employees more independence and trust that they can successfully meet business objectives remotely. The pandemic will come to an end, and when it does, businesses will be once again having a choice to continue implementing adaptions made during COVID-19 or revert to the previous traditional model. Employees and employers have long awaited the ability to prove they can remain productive, efficient, and produce quality work in less time and on a remote basis. This pandemic has simply forced businesses take that leap of faith and trust that business can be conducted utilizing advanced technology in a flexible workplace model.
Written by: Andrea Lopez, a Recruiter for Consea America Inc.