Some 30 to 35% of the workforce — 50 to 60 million employees nationwide — were furloughed or laid off due to the COVID pandemic within the span of mere weeks, triggering the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. However, the latest jobs report from the Labor Department offers a glimmer of hope that the beginnings of an economic rebound could be upon us with a reported 2.5 million jobs added in May.
An economic turnaround could lead to employers bringing furloughed employees back on payroll and/or increasing their hours. However, for those employees who are called back, the reintegration will be into a workplace that is radically different from the one they left mere months earlier.
Many will come back but remain working from home, while others will be required to come back into the office. Reintegration in the COVID recovery workplace will take some doing to ensure the resulting workforce is right-sized and right-sited.
Here are five key things organizations will need to consider moving forward:
1. Who Returns, When, and Where?
Which roles are best suited to work from home? Which personnel should report back to the office? What is the right percentage of personnel to remain working from home moving forward to address the Board of Directors mandates for business continuity/risk mitigation?
These are just a few of the questions organizations must ask to determine the optimal composition of the workforce moving forward. As well, organizations likely will have revamped their business models over the past few months, and/or transitioned the remaining employees to handle work in different departments or geographies. Companies will need to understand how these shifts and changes impact the new post-COVID workforce.
2. Onboarding for Greater Glide
Companies will require an “onboarding” process for employee reintroduction to ensure their skills and contributions can be seamlessly dovetailed into the organization’s glide path, and that overall workforce capacity is aligned with the most strategic and customer-facing activities.
As companies face more financial pressure than ever, they don’t have the luxury of waiting weeks for employees to “ramp” back up. Newly reintegrated employee contributions must move the mark in the first days back and weeks back; a solid onboarding process supports this requirement.
3. Revving Up Remote Management
COVID has given many employees and companies the opportunity to prove the Work from Home model; in fact, productivity studies show that employees working from home are actually more productive than their work-in-office counterparts. As a result, many organizations may opt to keep a significant portion of their workforce working from home moving forward.
Prior to COVID, there was already a workplace referendum in place, with many employees desiring to work from home. In fact, one study showed that for nearly two-thirds of candidates, whether a company offers alternative work locations (home or office) was deemed a key consideration when choosing a job.
In the remote workforce, “management by walking around” has been replaced entirely, and companies have been baptized into a new era of digital and data-driven management. Now, more than ever, organizations need to quantify work activity with complete transparency to provide fact-based insights to enable organizations to improve workload balancing, improve the effectiveness of workplace communication and collaboration, and instill greater control and confidence in managing the remote workforce.
4. Optimizing the Office Real Estate Footprint
Some employees will need to report back into the office – but the office has undergone a huge post-COVID renovation to comply with social distancing and workplace hygiene guidelines. Given that a significant number of employees may Work from Home in the foreseen future, organizations are recognizing that this is an opportunity to drastically reduce their facilities costs. The question many are asking is: What is the corresponding post-pandemic commercial real estate footprint to have in place moving forward?
5. Reviewing Software Subscriptions
Companies make significant investments in software to run and drive their business but often end up purchasing too much software amounting to millions in excess software license fees. One study of 149 organizations in the United States and United Kingdom across 16 different industries pegged the cost of unused software across to be $34 billion, with an average waste per business of $7.4 million. As organizations look to right-size the post-COVID workforce, they should assess the actual usage patterns as to how employees engage with the software. This will allow changes to be made to avoid costly software over-subscription. By freeing dollars locked up in excess software licenses, organizations can reallocate these funds to make investments in the workforce and/or other strategic business initiatives.
The Post-COVID Workplace Reboot: Now in Progress
Organizations are now entering unprecedented employment waters. COVID has triggered the biggest overhaul of work since the Industrial Revolution. This is more than a shift in where work is done. It’s a massive workplace reboot. To architect the post-COVID workforce, there are so many factors and considerations at play that organizations are harnessing workplace data along with powerful analytics and machine learning to help provide answers.
Companies are leveraging Big Data and analytics to drive insights to action and now are recognizing the need to put the power of these technologies to formulate a real-time multi-dimensional view of enterprise operations – providing visibility into work patterns, employee engagement data, and productivity, workforce capacity and team utilization.
The post-COVID workplace reboot will be based on careful scenario planning to make the best use of the corporate world’s greatest resource – its workforce, and workforce insights will help guide this planning to ensure the workplace is optimized and poised for success.