With 2020 behind us, further lockdown restrictions eased and having received our first shipment of the coronavirus vaccine, we look forward to 2021 with great expectation and hope as we continue to rebuild and strengthen our economy and the society in which we operate.

It is important to note that as we embark on a new chapter, remote working, social distancing, and further workplace transformation will continue as the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world of work forever and COVID-19 is unlikely to end suddenly.

The increased productivity experienced in the early stages of the pandemic is waning, as the urgency that powered employees and organisations at the start of the crisis has started to dissipate. Companies are left with tired teams, as people start to understand that this was not a once-off crisis that required ‘all hands on deck’ but rather, a permanent change to the workplace. If the initial productivity boost was driven by a highly engaged ‘emergency response’, it is natural for productivity to now decline as that level of response simply cannot be maintained over the long-term. Improving and managing the experience of the workforce, whilst sustaining a positive company culture in a post-COVID-19 world, will be of the utmost importance.

The Future of Work has Taken a New Direction: The current focus is on defining what an ideal blended model might look like for a specific company. There are limited one-size-fits-all models that can be applied, and organisations need to analyse each employee function to determine how that role can be optimised through a combination of remote and in-office work. Most tasks that can be performed remotely will continue in that fashion, but companies should also create opportunities for employees to engage in-person. Knowledge workers will no longer view the four walls of the office as their primary domain, as this gets replaced by the four sides of their computer screens, and offices will be viewed as a resource to be used as necessary, rather than the place where all work gets done.

Enhancing Productivity and Maintaining Morale: Increased levels of uncertainty, coupled with the pressure for increased productivity, has tested the resilience of the workforce and has serious consequences for well-being and mental health. Increasingly, companies will need to exercise a much higher duty of care toward their employees and will need to adopt a holistic approach to managing and supporting employees’ well-being beyond just the workplace. Resilience is, however, a skill not a personality trait. It can be developed and strengthened in employees through developing basic techniques of self-awareness and self-management – it is therefore essential that organisations invest in the necessary training and support to grow employee resilience, and to provide support mechanisms and activities that bolster mental health and general well-being. Additionally, leadership also needs to be upskilled to operate effectively in the new workplace. Outdated command-and-control styles of management no longer have a place in the modern workplace – leaders need to be trained to create safe, creative, and dynamic environments. They should be empowered with the skills that allow them to demonstrate higher levels of care toward employees, whilst maintaining focus on objectives and high levels of motivation. Smart companies will also take the time to identify and support leaders that have emerged naturally as a result of the pandemic – those who rose to the occasion and demonstrated an ability to lead even though they don’t necessarily have the title.

Importance of Company Culture: It has been found that companies with a strong purpose – where that purpose has been emphasised throughout the business – have generally outperformed companies with poorly defined purpose, during times of crisis. When employees believe in what they are doing and subscribe to a higher purpose, they tend to be more highly motivated and naturally demonstrate higher resilience to external shocks. Organisational purpose is underpinned by company culture – the shared beliefs and values which are communicated and reinforced throughout the business, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding. The ability to instil and reinforce company culture will increasingly become a critical success factor – not only for productivity of current employees but also for attracting the best talent in the future. Companies and leaders will increasingly place emphasis on values, purpose, and the objectives required to achieve that purpose.

As we continue to navigate uncertainty in a post-COVID-19 world, we look forward to our continued partnerships and strengthening levels of collaboration amongst our community of co-located business.