By Mohit Joshi, President, Infosys
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, flexible working arrangements existed but were not commonly practiced in Europe. Eurofound 2020 finds that 40% of the current working population in Europe began teleworking because of the virus compared to 15% before the outbreak. This large and sudden shift caused immense challenges in the workplace.
However, 2020 has proved that remote working is here to stay. A June 2020 survey by Global Workplace Analytics predicts that over 75 million employees may be working from home before the crisis is over. Clearly, organisations need to create the infrastructure and the policies to support the new way of working. Businesses have been gradually adopting digital solutions and building the necessary infrastructure to support this transition since March 2020.
What began as a response to a crisis is now emerging as a preference. Some of Europe’s large companies are contemplating changing their work model. UniCredit SpA, an Italian global banking, and financial services company, plans to have 40% of their work done remotely after the pandemic. Siemens AG, a German multinational, intends to allow its employees to work remotely for two or three days every week. Transport company Uber has extended its work from home policy until the end of June 2021. In fact, many European countries are now framing regulations and legislations around remote working. At Infosys, we too shifted nearly 99% of our workforce to a work-from-home model since March 2020 and will continue to find ways to support this hybrid model in the post-COVID years.
Having established the reality of this change, the question before organisations is how they will support the needs of the remote employee. What will the modern workplace look like?
The primary needs of a hybrid workplace
We believe the future workplace will be a hybrid model consisting of people working from both remote locations and office premises. To ensure its resilience, we envision it to be knowledge- and – a data-driven organisation with agility built into the organisation’s gene to quickly adapt to the changing environment and continuously evolve in response.
Processes and collaboration will be integrated and streamlined. Employees will be empowered to self-serve themselves, with intelligent insights and sentient operations, enabling them to be hyperproductive and work seamlessly across channels.
This new workplace will demand focus on three primary needs, namely:
Productivity: Employees will need all the support they can acquire to get their work done without any hindrances due to a lack of co-locational presence of colleagues or time differences. Approval, review, analysis, presentation, strategizing, ideating, and brainstorming – most of these activities at the workplace need information, tools, process guidelines, and collaboration. The hybrid and remote workplace must provide the necessary framework to employees so that they can perform their day-to-day activities from anywhere without unnecessary delay. Besides, employees must be freed from doing routine and repetitive work to focus on strategic tasks.
Engagement: A significant difference most employees feel when working from home is the inability to walk up to their colleagues’ desk to clarify a query, to gather information, or seek suggestions. They may find it hard to put up a sales pitch to a client without visiting them at their office. Managers may find it hard to delegate tasks without the ability to share their plans in a meeting room in the team’s presence. Development teams may find it challenging to integrate the different parts of their codes to produce a solution. Employees need the ability to communicate and collaborate with ease with every stakeholder.
Processes: Work-related processes need to be redefined so that the physical work activities and operations can be conducted in a digital-first manner while ensuring transparency and accountability. Task management, tracking performance, providing employee engagement, training, and communication – are the different work elements that demand well-defined processes to ensure everyone follows the necessary protocol, has access to knowledge, feels motivated, and is empowered. The availability of resources and intelligence that supports efficient work processes is critical to high productivity.
A sentient, flexible and hyperproductive workplace in the future
To support the above mentioned-needs of a modern workplace, it needs to be digital-first, always-on, flexible, scalable (cloud-based), hyper-personalized, and sentient. A cloud-based, AI-driven workplace is the best choice in the modern context to ensure that not only does it meet these imperatives but that the workplace is future-ready. It must have the capability to support continuous improvement through an uninterrupted study of what’s working and what’s not. How do we enhance the experience, how do we amplify productivity? How do we shift to meet the new demands of our clients or the changing business environment?
We must refer back to the 2020 survey by Global Workplace Analytics and give attention to the finding that employees’ productivity can reach 75% of the time when working from home, compared to 63% at the office. Thus, what we need is a technology framework that can ensure every employee who is working remotely has access to the necessary infrastructure, tools, and processes to facilitate them in their daily jobs and meet the organizational goals. More importantly, it should enable employees to pursue and excel at their work with new digital skills and learnings. This will ensure job quality, work-life balance and motivation at work, elements that are much required in a remote-working model.