A new meaning to the saying, “when life gives you lemons… make lemonade”, has definitely become evident within doing business in South Africa. It has been amazing to see how companies have adapted and changed so quickly during 2020. Although extremely challenging, the pandemic opened the door to creative thinking and problem-solving; a more flexible workplace; a focus on human wellbeing and obviously emphasized the importance of skills development. All and all one cannot overlook the positives this pandemic brought most businesses.
However, businesses are not out of the woods yet. There is still lots to be done on a continuous basis and the year 2021 holds its own surprises.
Here are The Mindpsa Institute’s 3 main predictions of what the work environment will focus on during 2021:
As the year 2021 starts off with the second wave of Covid-19 accompanied by yet another adjusted level 3 lockdown, more and more companies and employees realise that if they do not adapt, they will be left behind. We all realise the difference powerful tools and technologies can make in running day to day operations of businesses, schooling, as well as upskilling our staff and keeping them motivated.
If you could see into the future, what do you think the work environment will look like during 2021? The Mindspa Institute predict 3 main areas of focus:
1. Flexible Remote Offices Are Here to Stay
Companies by now, have experienced most of the positives and negatives surrounding remote work. Apart from the obvious advantages like cutting costs, for example on paying rent for office space, increasing work hours since people don’t have to travel anymore etc… most companies were incredibly surprised just how productive their employees could be if they were trained, guided, trusted, and given more flexibility. Workplace technologies and digital communication tools also evolved very quickly during this time and enabled employees and managers to communicate effectively and successfully while working remotely. It is safe to say that the concept of working remotely is here to stay and during 2021 businesses will build on this.
2. Emotional and Mental Wellbeing of Employees
This pandemic also shifted a huge focus on emotional and mental health in the workplace. The isolation during lockdown highlighted the desperate need for ‘in-person’ and ‘social’ interactions. Apart from the anxiety surrounding the physical illness of Covid-19, suddenly there was a range of extra worries, stressors and anxiety that came with working remotely. The plummeting economy and huge job losses, as well as overnight changes to how we do business all contributed to our emotional and mental state.
Those who were alone and relied on socialising at work as their ‘people-interaction-fix’, only have screens or phones through which they can communicate. Those with families suddenly had irregular work hours and had to multi-task at home. They had to have more self-discipline to make sure the work was still done, but also had to take care of their families and some parents had to home school on-top of it all. People were also expected to quickly learn more skills especially technical skills.
This was a whole new ball game for a lot of people which negatively influenced their general emotional and mental wellbeing which became evident in the rate of suicides which increased as conveyed by reports and many counsellors. Help lines had more queries and calls to attend to and essential workers, like health care workers showed more symptoms of workplace burnout.
Employers will be expected to concentrate on fixing the workplace wellness equilibrium during 2021 to bring back a sense of normalcy. Employees will look towards their companies for help and training. They will look to their team leaders for empathy and understanding. They will stay loyal to companies who care about them and who show a vested interest in them as human beings.
3. Continuous Skills Development
There are two sides at play here. That of the employer or manager and that of the employee. For managers and team leaders, the tricky part will be the upskilling in managing remote teams; monitoring and evaluating performance levels of teams; conducting disciplinary hearings and procedures remotely, and keeping teams engaged, motivated, and inspired. Employers will also be required to continuously upskill their emotional intelligence and will also be expected to create wellness in the workplace.
While on the other side, employees who work remotely also have different needs to be fulfilled by their employers. They rely heavily on guidance, motivation and skills training to deal with all the challenges they face. Things like virtual meeting etiquette, business writing, effective communication, workplace wellness, time and stress management etc. all form part of continuous skills training employees require to function optimally and productively. Employees too need to develop their emotional intelligence to be able to function in teams efficiently. Mindfulness and emotional health skills training will also contribute greatly towards being more positive and focussed.
Luckily, The Mindspa Institute has a variety of courses to aid both the employer or management teams and the employee with frequent skills development. Courses can be customised to cater for specific needs of any company in any industry. The blended approach enables anyone who needs to attend the training to be presented via Zoom. A trained “live” facilitator entertains while developing the skills of employees and management teams. Practical exercises and electronic manuals all give the delegates something to refer to once the training is completed.