Work from Home (WFH) became a ubiquitous new acronym during this pandemic; but is it really here to stay?
The current employment landscape is still a balancing act between cost-savings and re-hiring to meet operational demands for most sectors, particularly the tourism and hospitality industries. So, until borders re-open and COVID-19 is well and truly in the rear vision mirror, gigs or short-term contracts will undoubtedly increase, as will the need for most employees to continue working from home. In our most recent 2021 ACI Report, 75 per cent of the respondents we surveyed had indicated that they wanted either the flexibility to choose where they worked, or at least 50 per cent of their time spent working from home post the pandemic. The reality is Millennials and Gen Yers were already leading the push for the gig economy and flexible working environments prior to the pandemic and COVID-19 has simply fast-tracked the process.
We are already seeing many headline grabbing statements made by multinational companies that WFH will remain even post-pandemic, and whilst there will definitely be a large segment of the talent pool that this will appeal to, companies should seriously consider if this is the right approach for them, as it will not be one size fits all. WFH might be a cost effective and obvious option at the moment for most employers, particularly for the SMEs who can forego long office leases and greatly reduce a large cost burden in an already tight bottom-line, however, I would caution employers about making long term and/or permanent commitments post pandemic at this stage.
Workplace culture and relationships are often built on a foundation of physical and emotional interactions with peers, bosses, and business associates. Existing employees who went from the office into WFH due to the pandemic would generally already be indoctrinated into the company’s corporate culture and therefore would have a major advantage over new employees joining an organisation who will work from home on day one. They may have the skills to perform at the job, but the orientation process will be vastly different and may take much longer. For example, when a colleague, a staff member, or the entire team for that matter have had a particularly tough day or week, it is not uncommon as a social norm to invite them out for a drink after work to pick up the mood. Conversely, the opportunity for a celebratory drink or meal may also be missed because we no longer have office colleagues to share our joy or successes with. These are all the foundations of building a corporate culture, teamwork, and loyalty. So, what might possibly happen as a result is that the employer-employee relationship will become even more transactional than what it already is, and tenures will possibly become even shorter than what is presently seen.
In the meantime, it will likely be a collaborative journey in discovering what the new normal working conditions might look like. Employee’s current expectations are shorter in timeframe, shelving long term goals for more clarity to their immediate future, and business leaders are looking for resilience and flexibility in their talents as we find a way out of the pandemic. It will likely stay this way until COVID-19 is well and truly behind us, and ultimately, there will be a recalibration of what employers and employees expect from one another.
Andrew Chan, MBA, is the Founder and CEO of ACI HR Solutions; Asia-Pacific's largest recruitment agency dedicated to the travel and hospitality sector. Having worked in many facets of the industry, Andrew has established himself as one of the leading human capital experts and voices in the sector.
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