It's taken a crisis to implement what was unthinkable three months ago into a reality: a majority of employees working from home. Many companies had to adapt virtually overnight to continue operating and just how successful it has been will no doubt be debated in the months to come, but it has succeeded as a catalyst to transforming how we work in the 21st century.
The past 10 years have seen the “average” workplace change to reflect evolving values and technology. Open offices and nap rooms are the most drastic differences but what are the key elements that have actually come to define the 21st century workplace?
Technology has impacted significantly on the way organisations operate.The transition to an online economy has already replaced many routine jobs with automation and streamlined processes and efficiencies. Yet a skilled, engaged and focused workforce is still the key to a successful company.
When finding the right person for a job, the old rules no longer apply. It's no longer enough to have an employee who just simply has the ability to complete tasks. An agile business encourages their workers to enrich the business dynamic through the use of social skills to create a positive culture and build mutually beneficial relationships across the company.
New ideas from tech startups which were originally regarded as radical are now finding their way into mainstream organisations. These adaptations are making a positive impact on the way many companies view their structure, work environment and hiring policies. Change within business can be difficult however it is important to evolve alongside innovations to remain competitive and build a brand that will also attract the best talent.
To achieve goals and operate at the most proficient level possible, organisations are beginning to adopt a less hierarchical structure of management to facilitate more fluid job descriptions and roles. A blurring of boundaries accommodates more creative and collaborative work styles that eliminate fixed lines of communication which often hinder efficiency.
Innovative business environments such as those made famous by Google have been a proven strategy in helping to improve work life balance and overall productivity. While Google's ball pits and nap rooms maybe a stretch for most companies, their free flowing work space yields the perfect environment for improving working relationships and staff morale. Promoting the use of dynamic teams by bringing a variety of staff together for specific projects can create successful crossover and understanding between business operations such as web-design and logistics.
The Rise of Soft Skills
With change in business structure comes a change in basic skills required for the ideal employee. Previously, the person who could complete the job best may have been the top choice for an employer. The demand for social skills, known as soft skills, are a key requirement for the modern workspace as compared to a classic work environment. The crossover of previously departmentalised tasks has not only demanded flexibility in employees skill sets, but also in their ability to collaborate with other employees effectively.
In an article written by the Harvard Business Review, Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle commented, “We recruit for attitude and train for skill.” Training a school teacher to be a graphic designer simply because you collaborate well with them may be a bit overboard, however there is truth in working with, and employing colleagues that compliment each other to achieve a positive working environment.
Companies that resist the adoption of innovations in the workplace, will only delay their success. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.” Embracing change and spending the time on planning how to best adapt current resources will ensure a smooth transition for future success.