With most companies having experienced a work-from-home scenario, what are the global trends being observed and how prepared are organisations in terms of aligning to this rapidly changing environment?

So, employees are no longer wanting to be seen as resources, but rather as individuals with very unique and differing needs. Companies have therefore seen a need to prioritise their staff as well as their wellbeing and the work-life balance. Leaders within organisations are therefore adopting technology to assist in this change and this enables digital transformation for hybrid and remote employees to work safely whilst maintaining or even increasing productivity.

Workplace strategy has noted five key factors of influence:

  • Employee safety – optimising the safe use of office space but in healthy buildings
  • Enabling remote workers as well as hybrid systems
  • Focusing on employee wellbeing
  • Improving the employee experience
  • Achieving sustainability goals

Let us first focus on the employee experience. This is the way employees perceive and feel about the organisation. This “feeling” is a culmination of experiences with; colleagues, management, customers/tenants/investors, and the overall work environment. Companies are increasingly focusing on improving the employee experience which has resulted in positive productivity impacts as well as brand perception. At the East London IDZ, employee and brand surveys are carried out on an annual basis to measure this employee experience. This allows the ELIDZ to set a high standard of ensuring a positive employee experience and areas that need improvement can be detected at an early stage and corrected.

Wellbeing has recently replaced productivity as the top factor in driving change in workplace strategies. A two third majority of global companies interviewed in a recent study have indicated that wellbeing in staff has decreased since COVID-19 and employees have started to burn out as they struggle to maintain healthy working hours. Ramping up of technology and systems has been key in reducing risks of burnout and management must prioritise learning more about the positive benefits of a healthy workforce and improving the employee experiences in the workplace.

Although executives in organisations believe that progress has been achieved on workplace strategy, this perception is higher than that of operations teams within the same organisation. So, although 72% of CEOs say they have a modern digitally transformed workplace strategy in place, only 47.2% of staff believe this.

Further challenges being experienced with digital transformation in the workplace include a growing dependence on technology but the skills to effectively use the technologies is scarce. This would mean that as new technology is brought in to improve the user experience, it will be important to train and retrain, to ensure that the new system is effectively utilised. It was also found that technology can break down certain barriers, but once humans become involved, silo mentality does tend to come into play once again. Organisations must therefore ensure that increased compartmentalisation and information blockages do not occur when bringing in new changes.

Sustainability has become key to workspace design as well as enabling a connected workforce. Organisations have moved from only thinking of compliance, towards consideration now being given to how a brand is built, how to attract and retain talent, and how to diversify and decrease operational costs. Engagement with employees as individuals as well as a collective is driving positive change as organisations move towards net zero targets. To be human is to be connected and efforts are being made to ensure that work experience and technology brings in this feeling of connectivity. This will ensure that the user has a positive and motivating experience with the organisation and its brand whilst delivering a seamless product or service which is both scalable and cost reducing.

The ELIDZ’s ICT Department has enabled this rapid conversion towards a remote workplace whilst still keeping employees connected to each other and across various functionalities and departments. Research will continue as new products are launched in which to enhance the remote working experience, whilst ensuring increased connectivity but still setting boundaries so that technology does not become too invasive in one’s personal space.

By Dr Chris Ettmayr – East London IDZ, Sector Manager: ICT & Renewable Energy