6 Areas That Employees Must Unlearn To Be Future Ready
Twenty years ago, to be productive, the predominant belief was that you needed to occupy the same space as your entire team, supervise closely and micromanage tasks. Today, that’s not the case and it’s not even practically possible. Work is no longer about “we’re doing it this way, here and now, because this is how it’s always been done.”
Organisations and employees now have no choice but to adapt to new ways of working. Today, businesses are being remodelled and we are rethinking traditional ideas surrounding productivity, focusing more on letting employees accomplish tasks when and where it’s best for them as long as the outcome is achieved.
Other than the forced effect of the pandemic, technology has revolutionised the way we perform a range of tasks. We can now send and receive emails wherever we are, join in meetings from the other side of the world, keep in touch with our colleagues through a variety of platforms, access all digital files from our home office without ever going near the office building and we can keep up with the latest developments without having to attend long conferences or meetings.
But despite the ability to do work at any place and any time, we are still slaves to routines that were put in place before the pandemic. The norm for most people in work is to have a job at a fixed location with a fixed set of hours. However, Coronavirus has challenged this and how!
Since the beginning of the pandemic, when most companies resorted to working from home the emphasis was on maintaining productivity which heavily depends on organisational skills and managing tasks virtually. Not everybody was used to this and it took a lot of effort to reorient to the situation. Over the last month or so, a lot of people have started going back to work, and employees once again have to reorient themselves.
For any employee, senior or junior, to be successful in the new way of work, they will first need to unlearn certain hard-wired lessons. Here are six areas to unlearn which will help your employees adapt to new ways of working with speed and precision:
1. Hierarchies in the workplace:
As organisations move towards a flatter organisation structure, better collaboration, and cross-functionality will become fundamental. Employees must be more self-responsible and take ownership. The lockdown has taught us that we have to be our own boss in many ways. Companies which follow a flat structure tend to empower employees to make decisions and encourage more innovation, which is one of the important aspects of maintaining business continuity.
Unlearn: working under constant supervision
Learn: to take ownership of work
2. Working fixed hours:
By managing time better, employees can maintain a work-life balance, gain more control over life events, and lower their stress levels. Each person has his or her most productive time of the day, depending on what works best for each individual, people can deliver better productivity and during most convenient hours. Flexi-time also gives the organisation more room to manoeuvre to meet client targets beyond traditional work hours. A more flexible schedule is also a form of employee benefit, serving organisations in terms of staff recruitment, employee retention, and reduced absenteeism and tardiness due to stress, sickness, and other reasons.
Unlearn: working for a fixed number of hours and days or between fixed times
Learn: to be task-oriented and output-driven
3. Working in silos:
With remote working becoming increasingly popular, working in silos will have an irreversible and damaging effect. As the work environment is changing more rapidly, organisations will hire people who can adapt quickly, wear multiple hats and break communication barriers. Working in silos is increasingly seen as insular and restricting the flow of information. It may also make it hard to coordinate action and adapt to change. The collaboration of work, on the other hand, facilitates information sharing, transparency and makes it easy to meet targets on time. Therefore the key skills employees should hone are adaptability and timely communication of knowledge and information.
Unlearn: working in a single domain or profile
Learn: to develop new skills no matter your current role
4. Being overly dependent on support teams:
Being dependent on teams like IT, accounts, facilities or HR can no longer mean sitting back and waiting for intervention. During the work from home phase, employees had to design their own work environments suitable to their needs and conditions. This meant that several problems had to be solved independently. To save time, and maintain efficiency, employees have to function independently to some extent. This means that employees have to display better problem-solving skills and take timely decisions independently, especially for those matters that do not need approvals.
Unlearn: waiting for support on non-core functions
Learn: tasks and processes that allow you to work self-reliantly
5. Strong emphasis on company goals rather than employee wellness:
As a given, every employer has health insurance policies to ensure employee safety, which often included the employee’s family. However, this pandemic situation has generated and spread awareness about the significance of maintaining employees’ mental well-being in addition to physical safety. This has changed our perception of employee benefits forever. Some of the ways we can ensure safe environments for employees are looking at ways to reduce screen time, for example, to avoid exhaustion and burnout. Other examples include fewer hours of work, introducing helplines and employee assistance programmes. This trend will continue long after the pandemic subsides.
Unlearn: to chase goals at any expense
Learn: to endeavour towards work-life balance
6. The workplace itself:
The office space will look and operate very differently. Regular sanitisation of the office space, instalment of health monitoring sensors, changes in the accessibility of common areas such as the cafeteria, controlled movement and access, with a limited number of employees will be allowed inside the office or at a common room at a time, will become the new normal. Organisations are also drawing up plans to incorporate technologies which will help employees function with minimum contact in offices like voice technologies will enable employees to control equipment in meeting rooms.
Unlearn: productivity attached to a place
Learn: to work even with distractions
Reading all of the above may seem like it is impractical. But the combination of social change in attitudes towards work, along with the freedom that comes with technology, traditional management practices is being challenged. The idea that work has to take priority over the rest of life is now being questioned. This evolution from fixed working patterns to highly flexible work arrangements is a journey currently being undertaken by many employers. It is therefore all about keeping up individual productivity while avoiding burnout, managing work-life balance and maintaining business continuity while getting back to the office.
The other important aspect that spotlights is supporting employees to embrace this change, channelising their dynamism towards upskilling. Upskilling not just for technical skills, but also softer skills such as managing time efficiently, working well with others, and developing unique leadership abilities; building team spirit and adaptability to evolving working ways. In short, organisations are transforming from rigid employers to flexible networks to get the best results from people. Let’s not forget, this goal is not only relevant to getting back to work after a long spell of lockdown but for an employee to be future-ready!
Phew, there is a lot of ground to be covered. The best way to start would be by making a list of all areas of change for your employees and involving them in the process of change. Remember regular communication and strong engagement will go a long way in building the future of your workplace and set the foundation of trust and collaboration.
At Yellow Spark, we approach change management keeping business sensitivities in mind. From mapping the change to developing strategies for implementation to conducting comprehensive employee training, we are your one-stop-shop to make a smooth transition to the new way of work. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.