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The Future of Work is a Flexible, Adaptable, and Resilient Workforce

The key to unlocking the economy starts with the successful control of Covid-19 and much work is being done to strike the right strategic balance that will lead countries and organizations to better outcomes.  Behind all the models, new procedures and creative approaches are the individuals who are making all this happen and businesses and organizations are paying attention.  Businesses understand that a resilient workforce goes hand-in-hand with an improved economy and are placing new emphasis on wellbeing and resilience as key to business success.

Employees need to take heed of this message. Economic uncertainty and high unemployment rates only underscore the need to be resilient in the face of change and uncertain times.  They can take advantage of energized organizational concerns for employee well-being by responding to efforts made by businesses to address workforce resilience with protocols to reduce health risks and to take actions that future-proof organizations from ongoing disruptions and change.

Here are five actions worth considering that could improve your own workplace resilience in today’s uncertain times.

#1 Stay Connected

Social distancing and remote working can drive people apart. Now is the time to strengthen your emotional and social skills to ensure more effective collaboration, strengthen business relationships and make connections. This can be done by phone or video chat, email, text, mail, as well as via social media. Checking on others makes them feel more connected while also building a sense of belonging.

The American Psychological Association research shows that when communication stops, people are prone to imagine the worst. Staying connected provides you and others with the reassurance needed to move forward with confidence.

#2 Improve Digital Capabilities

The necessity of working in a fully digital environment became apparent at the start of the pandemic when office work went remote. During the summer of 2020, a survey by PwC of 120 US company executives and 1,200 US office workers (essential services excluded) showed that the majority (55%) anticipated that office workers would continue to work from home at least one day a week after the pandemic ended. Some surveys report numbers that are even higher. It’s not enough to just get by digitally. Expertise in using workstream collaboration tools: everything from calendaring and email to Slack/Microsoft Teams, content collaboration, Zoom, etc.,  allows you to focus on your work not the technology enabling it.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported on a global survey of company leaders done in June that showed that 94% of the organizations studied had technology problems that had impacted their business and employees while employees worked remotely. With the economy open, it is time to gain access to any needed internet and hardware upgrades and repairs, cyber security tools and other tech that can better support remote work flexibility. Also overdue is elimination of any paper-based workflows and streamlining of newly established workflows.

 #3 Adjust Work/Life Balance

Remote office work during the pandemic has underscored that a day’s work doesn’t have to replicate the 9 to 5 day. Without a commute, many workers enjoy extra time for exercise, hobbies and family commitments. Yet parents of children continue to face uncertain school schedules and day care resulting in conflicting demands that threaten their workplace resilience and upend the work/life balance. In addition, experts caution that, like shift work, when sleep is sacrificed and circadian rhythms are upset while responding to work and family responsibilities, health and wellbeing are threatened.

Increasingly organizations are more open to new ways of working, and some are accommodating work/life conflicts with flexible approaches. Recently SHRM detailed many of these approaches for its membership in a toolkit called, Managing Flexible Work Arrangements. The varied approaches described include: telecommuting, hybrid workweeks with workdays split between office and home,  condensed workweeks (such as 4, 10-hour days and 80 hours in 9 days), job sharing or part-time schedules that keep people in the workforce although in a more limited capacity and customized or flextime work hours (early or late starts that extend beyond normal work hours). Another seemingly enticing arrangement yet deplored by many as deceptive, including, is the controversial unlimited paid time off; an approach that pays employees for results not appearances.

For people who are struggling or just want to improve their work/life balance, these and other alternatives, in the short- or long-term, may help them stay productive, flexible and valuable to their organization.

#4 Future-Proof Skills

One of the key business trends for 2020 is a “race to reskill the workforce,” according to Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Study of 7,300 senior business executives. The majority of the execs in the study also considered reskilling one of the investments they hope to maintain in an economic downturn. These execs report that their organizations are increasing their agility by moving away from traditional org structures and moving toward more fluid teams who can respond quickly to business priorities. Rather than specific technical skills, these organizations are looking for advanced critical thinking skills, including problem solving and decision making, and for greater project management expertise.

To maintain a place in this agile and resilient workforce, now is the right time to plan for and to develop skills, taking advantage of this organizational commitment to training. Today’s training isn’t restricted to classrooms or self-directed programs. For example, at Kepner-Tregoe all of our solutions are available virtually including facilitation, simulation and training.

Modern training approaches like simulations allow learners to apply new skills in a safe-to-fail environment that builds confidence and experience in the application of new abilities. Project management training helps people improve how they manage their own projects as well as how they contribute in projects managed by others. Critical thinking skills are evergreen capabilities that sustain high value, particularly in periods of crisis, innovation and change.

#5 Understand Health Risks/Address Concerns

Reopened workplaces have new protocols in place to protect employees. Yet it is new territory for everyone. Whether you are working remotely or returning to the office, it is important for you and anyone who reports to you to work inside of the structure your organization has designed for these circumstances but also to voice any concerns as well as ideas about how to work within this new normal. The CDC website is a repository of information about Covid-19 but it also addresses the workplace stress in general for example in this article on coping with stress, a review of symptoms of stress, tips for dealing with it and resources for getting help.

Even the most resilient among us can be at risk in a crisis. Reported in an April 2020 Harvard Business Review article, Build Your Team’s Resilience — From Home, research revealed that very resilient people are “geared toward action and what they can control,” sometimes leading to overwork and burn out in a time of crisis. The pandemic has underscored that maintaining good health lays the foundation for a resilient workforce.

Building resilience improves your ability to not only survive periods of uncertainty and change, but to thrive. Many have to struggle just to stay afloat in today’s difficult business climate. But any efforts now to plan for or pursue sought-after skills, improve digital capabilities, stay connected and healthy, and find work/life balance, may not only take advantage of the current business commitment to a resilient workforce but ultimately make you more resilient and employable in today’s new normal.

About Kepner-Tregoe

We all hope that you are well during this disruptive time in our world’s history.  For over 60 years our company, Kepner-Tregoe has had the opportunity to help major organizations navigate successfully through radical change, help solve intractable problems and increase incident and problem-management performance through tools, training and consulting – leading to highly effective teams ready to respond to your company’s most critical issues.

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