New Trends in the Post-Pandemic Workplace
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The pandemic has irrevocably changed the American workplace, introducing us to a more flexible, people-centric way of working.

As business leaders work to determine what the proverbial new normal will look like for their organization, one thing is apparent: The American workplace has been transformed. While the pandemic’s impact on teams was disruptive, stressful, and rife with problems, it also ushered in new ways of working — ones that many business leaders are hoping to carry forward into the post-pandemic world.

“Going forward, the idea is to take the best of the pre-pandemic world and the best learnings from the pandemic world, and figure out how to merge them together,” suggests Kelley Brown-Murro, Senior Vice President, Market Executive at Regions Bank.

Like so many teams across the country, Brown-Murro and her team navigated a new landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have adapted to new ways of getting the job done, evolved, and uncovered new efficiencies along the way.

Working Together and Emerging Stronger

At the start of the pandemic, many executives viewed remote work as a necessary — but certainly not ideal — solution. For the 60% of organizations that didn’t have a remote work policy in place, concerns ranged from plummeting productivity levels, to potential damage to team communication, collaboration, and company culture, to inability to do the work from home.

Extended time away from the office certainly hasn’t suited every team, yet a recent PwC survey finds that 83% of executives and 71% of employees felt that the shift to remote work was successful for their organization. Employees and managers alike have cited increased productivity as a key benefit — Capgemini Research Institute finds that in 2020, over 60% of organizations saw productivity rise as much as 24%.

While many C-suite leaders are still working to determine how the rapid shift to remote work has impacted their company culture, some have already witnessed positive shifts within the teams they manage. “A lot of people worry about their culture and what they’re losing by not going into the office, but in a lot of ways, I think it's improved,” explains Brown-Murro, who says that the ability to engage with her colleagues in a more relaxed, casual setting has been beneficial. “When your team can see into your home environment, you connect in a way that you wouldn’t if you were in the office.”

And for many leaders, the experience has also offered the opportunity to connect with their employees on a more human level. “I know so much more about my employees now — how they like to be managed and what they’re dealing with in their personal lives,” Brown-Murro explains. “When you're meeting colleagues over video, you see their pets, their children, their artwork and home projects — and it's really become quite wonderful. We see into each other’s lives and better understand each other's challenges.”

For many executives, the benefits of remote work have led them to change their stance on the matter: 75% now plan on making remote work a permanent fixture within their organization for a significant number of employees in the next few years. And given that 68% of employees surveyed by Qualtrics have expressed a desire to continue working remotely to some extent, this will be welcome news for many American workers.

In the end, the pandemic may have succeeded in facilitating a stronger sense of trust among colleagues — perhaps far better than any corporate-sponsored team-building exercise could.

“This experience took our existing culture to another level,” says Brown-Murro. “We worked through this crisis together. We leaned on each other. I think that experience really bonds all of us and makes us able to trust each other.”

The Future of Meetings

Before the pandemic, many professionals managed a busy calendar packed with meetings, business travel, and presentations. At one time or another, most American workers have been able to relate to that old office joke: “Yet another meeting that could have been an email.”

Although the pandemic hasn’t changed our reliance on meetings, it may have changed the way we approach them. An analysis conducted by Harvard Business School found that during the first eight weeks of lockdown, workers attended 13% more meetings — perhaps in an attempt to compensate for in-person communication. However, the same data shows that meetings also became more efficient during this period, running 20% shorter compared with the eight weeks leading up to lockdowns.

The shift from conference rooms to video calls has naturally ushered in a more relaxed environment. Incidents that would have previously been cause for embarrassment — technical failures, background noise, poor connectivity, household interruptions — became par for the course.

“It’s been refreshing, particularly for our clients,” explains Brown-Murro. “Before the pandemic, a dog barking in the background or a baby crying was something they tried to avoid. Now, it's almost welcomed.”

What Will Become of Business Travel?

As in-person meetings came to a screeching halt, most organizations adopted new ways to connect with clients — many of which will likely be maintained post-pandemic. Not only are corporations reaping the financial benefits associated with reduced travel and client entertainment expenditures, but many senior professionals have enjoyed the opportunity to spend less time in airports. As a result, some organizations will likely reevaluate their need for business travel. A study conducted by airline industry consultant company IdeaWorks predicts that as much as 36% of all business air travel could disappear post-pandemic.

For Brown-Murro’s team, the future of meetings will ultimately be influenced by the clients themselves. “The pandemic helped us realize a lot of our tasks can be done remotely,” she explains. “Our clients can tell us how they like to communicate and meet them where they want to be met. That can be in person or remotely, and going forward, the clients are going to dictate that.”

Preparing for What’s Next

The workplace transformation spurred by COVID-19 has presented both positives and challenges. If the pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s this: Flexibility and agility are key to withstanding disruption. As leaders consider what “normal” looks like for their own organizations, those same tenets will carry them forward.

“I'm excited about the future,” says Brown-Murro. “I think that we'll continue to evolve, and I think that we'll take a lot of great learnings from this period.”

For more guidance and tips for managing a distributed workforce, listen to “Managing a Hybrid Workforce” from our podcast Commercial Insights with Regions Bank.

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This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and irs.gov for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.