6. France: companies will reinforce work culture after the pandemic
Senior managers in France have been impressed by the ease with which their employees transitioned to working from home, according to Maurice Thévenet (above), professor of management at ESSEC Business School. Maurice has been in close contact with multinationals and small to mid-sized organizations in France during the pandemic.
As a result, we’ll have a more intelligent relationship with remote work, Maurice thinks, but it won’t dramatically change the way we work. Companies will still focus on the office, and pay particular attention to office culture to keep their employees motivated and productive.
“I would bet on the fact that it might reinforce working culture, rather than the opposite,” he says. “I noticed every time there is a crisis, either external or internal, the idea of culture comes up again.”
When we’re presented with an uncertain situation, we look for something “strong and stable”. That something is culture: “a glue between people, something that is perennial,” says Maurice.
In the coming years, a problem that a lot of companies will face is how to reinvigorate their workforce and recover productivity. That will require a strong focus on people.
“If we want to gain productivity, we need people to collaborate, and how can you work together better? If you share common references—that is the culture issue.”
Maurice points to Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them, a book by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini—the book points to the way people work together being the source of productivity tomorrow.
“This is very significant,” says Maurice, “because people can collaborate better only if they share something, and what can they share except for the culture?”
7. India: Assumptions about remote work are changing
The sudden move to remote work posed particular challenges in India, which has a large population and an infrastructure relatively unprepared for virtual work.
Despite the large-scale digitization that the country has undergone in recent years, companies were often reluctant to embrace remote work, valuing face time as an indicator of engagement and productivity.
But when a national lockdown forced the transition, organizations stepped up, explains Chandrasekhar Sripada (right), practice professor of organizational behavior and human capital at Indian School of Business.
“India is vast and very diverse, but a strong urge for rapid economic growth, great striving to catch up with the advanced global economy, and raising the standards of life for millions underpins work culture in most parts of India,” he says.
“Overall, India is evolving fast into a robust and vibrant work culture with a strong aspirational spirit.”
This attitude helped ensure a smooth transition to remote work, as organizations carefully considered strategies to promote both productivity and wellbeing.
Chandrasekhar’s research has found Indian employees are, in general, taking to remote work with ease. As with other countries, the shift has also improved productivity—and most workers would like to continue working remotely when the pandemic is over.
According to one 2020 study, 88% of Indian workers prefer having the flexibility to work from home, and 69% believe they are more productive in the home office.
Wherever we end up post-pandemic, the world of work has permanently changed. Managing the post-COVID-19 workforce will be one of the greatest challenges facing managers in the next decade.
The shift to more remote work comes with its obstacles--avoiding burnout, maintaining productivity, ensuring clear lines of communication between senior leadership, teams, and individual employees, to name a few--but it also offers increased flexibility and the potential for a healthier work-life balance. And as we transition beyond the pandemic, that can only be a good thing.
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