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Leading from afar: lessons from Covid-19 and the future of work

At the start of 2020, the option of working from home was a perk largely available to a relative few. But the evidence that remote working is not only possible, but often more productive and satisfying, is one lesson from managing workforces that has come out of Covid-19 – and a key positive that should be kept as lockdowns lift, comment Baker Tilly experts

Working from home is one of several important learnings that could improve the way businesses manage teams and create a more effective, happy and sustainable workforce.

But it requires business leaders to rethink how they lead, and how their workers feel about their roles and workload. While lockdown was swift and gave little time to consider the ‘best’ way to bring about workplace change, the protracted return requires more thought.

Unusual impacts of Covid-19 on our working lives – engage and connect

At the front of mind for Baker Tilly teams around the world has been the task of keeping a suddenly remote workforce engaged and connected.

For some, like Baker Tilly Canada, this has meant linking mentors with mentees, structuring into smaller teams with daily virtual check-in meetings, and weekly town hall meetings to ward off the potential for workers feeling isolated.

Others, like Baker Tilly US, have been working on how to connect thousands of staff over large distances, using technology to bridge the gap.

Even in countries with limited official lockdowns, there have been changes in the way many employers work. At Baker Tilly Sweden, for example, some offices have divided their workforce in two, and they work one week at home and one week at the office, but not at the same time.

A learning experience for all – provided you are willing to honestly assess how you have dealt with it

How businesses come out of Covid-19 is one of the most interesting issues from a people management perspective, both in mitigating the physical risks to staff and in ensuring people remain engaged and feel safe on their return.

Businesses that have gone above and beyond to look after the well-being of their people during the pandemic will be the ones that emerge with the strongest culture.

It is another exercise in which companies must engage closely with their employees and empower them to make choices best suited to their needs and comfort levels. It is akin to a disaster recovery programme: you ask the worst-case scenario questions but then you have all the answers, so that the plan is there, and you are prepared.

The future of work is an area often debated. For Baker Tilly Mooney Moore, Ireland, the realisation following Covid-19 is that the future is now here. Renegotiating our relationships with technology, with the workplace and with travel are going to influence how and where work gets done in the future, and the types of work that we do.

From a people perspective, going forward, we need to stabilise and heal the workforce because it has been dispersed. Finally, we need to reconnect the workforce in terms of new emerging recruitment and emerging talent strategies.

Baker Tilly contributors: Kari Viglasky, Canada; Todd Stokes, US; Donal Laverty, Ireland; Bengt Johnsson, Sweden

 

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