How Has The COVID-19 Pandemic Changed The Future Of Work?

A new Cisco report uncovers forward-looking lessons for leaders navigating return-to-office strategies.

Much has been written about the immediate pandemic-related challenges in the workplace. But how will COVID-19 impact the future of work? New research reveals forward-looking lessons for IT and business leaders as they navigate their return-to-office strategies. The findings are included in a report from Cisco, “A New Perspective on the Modern Workplace.”

Lessons learned from the Cisco research can be applied as many organizations begin rolling out their return-to-work strategies. The report covers six specific lessons that have emerged from the data gathered from COVID-19 experiences. These lessons highlight particular changes in mindset, attitude, direction, and behavior that will be particularly important.

  • 74% said their business will in some ways emerge stronger from the crisis. While the first half of 2020 was among one of the most tumultuous times in modern history, nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: Despite the challenges, our business will emerge stronger in some areas from the current crisis. This optimism is indicative of the ingenuity and innovation organizations have shown. It has been incredible to see how many initiatives around digital transformation and other forms of modernization scheduled for the medium to long-term, or deferred because of other competing priorities, have been accelerated.
  • Respondents say flexibility is here to stay, and it will benefit organizations as well as employees. Almost half (49%) of respondents indicated that flexible working hours are here to stay. And when it comes to hiring, 50% of our survey respondents said increased remote work would lead to a more inclusive and extended talent pool. Businesses are realizing that work can happen anywhere, productivity isn’t lost, and an expanded talent pool will enable stronger and more capable work teams.
  • The vast majority of managers said they have increased their emphasis on employee wellbeing and work-life balance. Nearly 9 out of 10 managers (87%) who responded to the survey said that as a result of the pandemic they increased emphasis on employee wellbeing and work-life balance. Of those managers reporting the increased emphasis, nearly half (47%) said they see this being maintained over the long term.return-to-office

Study participants said they viewed the pandemic as a catalyst for major change. This newfound focus and priority on health and wellbeing is a silver-lining during what is otherwise a sobering period of time. The obvious question remains as to whether this mindset shift can withstand the test of time, but participants were optimistic that workplace culture is transforming in the right direction.

Comments from participants included:

  • Empathy is so important, and you definitely see this more now.
  • Some of my team have been working cross-legged on their bed for weeks now. It’s hard to balance getting results with their comfort, but we need kindness and understanding during this time.
  • We are being human first now. I think there’s going to be more emphasis on individual health and mindfulness.

“From a business agility and resiliency perspective, it’s important that we learn and adapt quickly from this experience,” said Aruna Ravichandran, VP of Marketing, Cisco’s Collaboration Group. “You never know when you’ll need to pivot, and we’ve seen that technology like Webex is playing a key role.”

How has COVID-19 changed the way people work in your organization? How has the pandemic changed your facility, and what changes do you predict will take place as people return to the office? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.

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