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This is Part 1 of a periodic blog series on The Future Workplace.
As employees who have been working remotely gradually return to their workplaces, their health and safety remains top of mind for employers.
The workplace environment, logistics of flexible work arrangements, and support for workers’ physical and mental well-being are among the issues that must be addressed in the future, post-COVID-19 workplace.
According to Deloitte, an estimated 2.7 billion workers, or more than four out of five people in the global workforce, have been affected by stay-at-home measures. Not all post COVID-19 future workforces will look the same. Some companies are assessing how they will bring back furloughed workers. Others are reviewing policies for gig workers and finding ways to create a flexible schedule.
Some organizations are focusing on automation and artificial intelligence to complete routine tasks. Options to support remote workforces are also under review. Managers are assessing their office space to see how much of it they really need, or how much more they may need to ensure social distancing measures are in place.
In the not-too-distant future, employees will expect their company to provide more than just a place to work. They will be looking to employers to effectively manage exposure risk and make total worker health a business priority. If they have been accustomed to the comforts of working from home, including the opportunity to take breaks outdoors, they will want management support to help preserve their sense of control over their environment and personal well-being.
The physical work environment plays a significant role in how safe an employee feels at work. Whether work is conducted at one key location, a home office or a mobile site, the physical work environment impacts an employee’s productivity, sense of well-being and organizational performance. Employees will continue to require access to ergonomic workstations, personal protective equipment and hazard-free work environments.
Organizations will also need to look at how their workspace is configured. Redesigning them is key for sanitation, distancing and psychological safety. This will give leaders a great opportunity to adopt new processes and make positive changes in their organization. Listening to employees’ needs with an inclination toward innovation will be essential.
The continued evolution of technology makes it possible for many job tasks to be done remotely at any time of day. This has led to an increase in remote working environments and a decrease in an in-office, employer-controlled environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to additional growth in flexible work, a pattern that may continue post-pandemic.
Many companies are considering, or have already implemented, flexible work arrangements. When flexibility is provided, it helps employees balance competing demands, increases job performance and job satisfaction, and stimulates creativity, studies show.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that flexible work arrangements, including employer-sponsored leave, paid time off, and support for childcare and eldercare, have become one of the most effective ways to improve work-life balance. Many people experience stress when balancing work and family responsibilities.
According to the American Psychological Association, roughly two-thirds of individuals find work to be a significant source of stress. Elevated stress levels have been associated with health issues for workers, including burnout, anxiety and depression. Evidence suggests employees will be at even greater risk for mental and emotional stress in the future due to increased work-life crossover and decreased personal connections at work.
NIOSH Future of Work Initiative is a resource for companies that addresses topics such as job displacement, work arrangements, robotics and technology, which can be sources of job stress. Four main goals of the initiative are:
The pandemic has forced companies to be agile. As the future workplace continues to evolve and companies start to devise plans to function in a post-pandemic world, it becomes even more important to be adaptable to ensure the safety of your workforce.
WorkCare’s experienced team of occupational health professionals is prepared to provide guidance every step of the way.
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