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Work smarter from an HR perspective




Work smarter from an HR perspective

























smarter work, human resources,

Micael Johnstone, expert in strategy and the future of organizations and co-founder of Wading Herons, provides thought leadership on working smarter from an HR perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive global event in most of our lifetimes. Its profound impacts are still being felt – many are catastrophic and traumatic, but some offer the potential for beneficial (and needed) lasting change towards smarter work.

Moving from presenteeism to performance

The acceleration of emerging trends in the way we work is one of them. Advances in ICT have given us the tools to work in very different ways – to stay connected and productive without physically being in the same space. Prior to the global pandemic, attitudes towards productivity and efficient work had not kept pace with technology in the workplace.

Some more progressive organizations had already begun to realize the futility (and added cost) of a prescriptive “stay at your desk” approach to human resource management. The majority of managers were still attached to the idea that presenteeism was the best way to ensure that their employees were actually doing the work they were paying them to do.

“A recent Great Place to Work survey of 800,000 employees found stable or increased productivity after employees began working from home.”

The measurement of hours against output is a holdover from the old “clock out” industrial factory line hierarchies, where hours in and centralized control top down from the “clipboard” often equated to a longer high production efficiency. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, where high-performing people – not machines – are our greatest asset, different approaches are needed.

Imperatives for change: public sector leadership

A global lockdown and the need to work from home (for people who could) provided an opportunity to test whether organizations where remote working is an option could continue to operate without all of their employees in the office. We now know that the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”.

“The majority of employees prefer to work from home and enjoy a better work-life balance and have no desire to return to a daily commute.”

After some initial investment in communications and remote working solutions, leading global private sector organizations reported record profits in 2021. Civil servants continued to perform their duties, despite the dramatically increased stress and workload associated managing a global health crisis. Companies and administrations have benefited from a significant reduction in real estate, energy and travel costs. A recent Great Place to Work survey of 800,000 employees found stable or increased productivity after employees started working from home.

The majority of employees prefer to work from home and benefit from a better work-life balance and have no desire to resume a daily commute. A 2021 survey by EY found that four in five people wanted flexibility where they worked, and 47% went so far as to say they would consider changing jobs if flexible working wasn’t an option. .

There are generational differences – however – many young people enjoy the social aspect of going to the office more regularly and lack the residential space to make working from home so appealing.

“Advances in ICT have given us the tools to work in very different ways – to stay connected and productive without physically being in the same space. Prior to the global pandemic, attitudes towards productivity and efficient work had not kept pace with technology in the workplace.

Challenges and limitations of remote work

One of the main obstacles to giving up presenteeism is a lack of trust, and it works both ways. Employers who don’t trust their employees to work from home (despite evidence suggesting that performance and retention often improve) are likely to be resented by their employees, who may ultimately choose to leave for a workplace. more flexible work. Building trust between colleagues isn’t easy (especially when inherited cultures haven’t bred it) and managers need to invest in building stronger, more empathetic and collaborative relationships with their teams.

With less time together in one place, opportunities to collaborate and connect should be prioritized on workdays. In-person days should aim to strengthen bonds and working relationships between colleagues.

While it’s still early in what has been a massive overnight shift to smarter working, it’s clear there’s no going back to the way things were. Embracing innovation and more creative approaches to work is an opportunity to increase productivity and for all of us to be happier human beings.

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