In the end, we didn’t get it. Like a child who opens socks for Christmas instead of the latest games console, the 21 June came and went and the widely anticipated national freedom day passed without so much as a socially distanced street party. Now our attention has turned to the 19 July for the next proposed date when all restrictions will be lifted.
Of course, the concept of freedom day is a false economy peddled by headline writers and a significant number of the populous with an axe to grind against the government. The hard truth is that we’ve had much of our freedoms restored for weeks now - just look at the crowds coming into Wembley. It’s the same with work too. London is busier, though still 50% down on pre-pandemic levels according to Google data - covered in this Bloomberg article. Yet if the government does follow through on its promise of ending all restrictions in a few weeks, it leaves companies with three broad choices for back to business: bring everyone back to the office; introduce a flexible working regime; or allow people to work from their home office, kitchen table or garden shed permanently.
An accelerant to huge technological adoption
Irrespective of which option employers (and, indeed, employees) choose to take, the working environment in the middle of July 2021 is going to be vastly different from that of the middle of February 2020. The intervening period was an accelerant to huge technological adoption. It forced every element of the workforce to critique ways of doing things and processes while demonstrating that some jobs are simply best left to being done remotely.
According to the McKinsey The future of work after COVID-19 report, 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represents four to five times more remote workers than before the pandemic. There are also many examples of businesses that have evolved their working structures in perpetuity.
The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced a flexible working policy for its 22,000 UK staff, while the outsourcing firm Capita announced last year that the majority of its 900 new hires would be allowed to work remotely and have been encouraged to do so. Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, told workers earlier in June that all full-time employees would be allowed to work remotely if their job allowed it. There are many more.
The totem of our recovery
Wherever and however people work, the onus now will be on the structures in which they do so. How the basic processes and tasks are owned, managed and deployed, what remains remote and what does not and what is automated and what is not. If employees are not keen on returning to an office, they’ll be even more disgruntled to do so for a basic data entry or admin role that has been demonstrated to be better done by bots.
In the economic sense, bots are often considered a dirty word, responsible for the job losses of millions of loyal and honest workers. This is accentuated in a post-pandemic world as jobs will become the totem of our recovery. Though, contrary to popular belief, bots are not replacing workers. While there is some shedding of employees when firms adopt robots, data show that increased automation leads to more hiring overall. That’s because robot-adopting firms become so much more productive that they need more people to meet the increased demand in production. You can read more about this issue in this study - The Robot Revolution: Managerial and Employment Consequences for Firms.
Perfect time for process orchestration
Settling this situation down will be key for businesses and actually, it’s the ideal time for big organisations to critique how their processes are orchestrated. To steal the party line, it will be the basis of businesses ‘building back better’.
We’re at a perfect junction to make these decisions right now and make the long-term future of work sustainable, enjoyable and more profitable. Done right, everybody wins and that would most definitely be something worth celebrating on 19 July.
To find out if Enate's Process Orchestration platform can help your business, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.