The COVID-19 pandemic, which is still being fought as we speak, has changed the way many across the globe interact. It has also had a significant impact on the way we work, with many now working from home and reliant on technology to make the process as seamless as possible.

That said, it has not been the case for everyone, so what happens to the workplace post-pandemic? This is what Microsoft’s Work Reworked report sought to uncover, with the help of Boston Consulting Group, KRC Research and Dr. Michael Parke of the Wharton School.

The report was conducted on a global scale, and looked at some of the emerging trends in South Africa too, some of which make for very interesting reading.

Continued adoption

To that end, one of the findings is that 88 percent of leaders in SA expect they will adopt a more hybrid way of working permanently.

While South African employees still see value in working from a main office at least some of the time, the findings show that on average, people would now like to spend just less than half of their time outside of the traditional office setting – 42 percent.

In fact, Microsoft says people still see time spent in the office as a powerful way to maintain bonds with their colleagues.  

Having that kind of contact is key to fostering and maintaining a positive company culture, according to Microsoft South Africa.

“When people are physically together five days a week, it’s easy to bond – whether it’s sharing a joke at the watercooler, having a casual team lunch, or hunkering down together to meet a deadline,” says Colin Erasmus, Modern Workplace Business Group Lead at Microsoft South Africa.

“In an office setting, it’s also easy for senior staff to ‘walk the halls’ and talk with employees in a more informal way. All of these seemingly little things add up and have a big impact on the health of a business and team culture,” he adds.

Another outcome from the report is that more companies are seeing the value of remote working outside of simply having it in place as a result of the pandemic. To that end 82 percent of companies now have a set remote working policy in place, with 76 percent reporting increased productivity as a result of remote working.

While that is indeed promising, and easy to see why given that their are fewer distractions at home than there are at the office, it is also worth pointing out the issue of fatigue and employee burnout, which could become something that companies will need to wrestle in the new year.

Innovation and Flow State

The other key element to the Work Reworked report was how certain companies were more successful than others during the pandemic. Here, Microsoft zeroed in on how these companies embraced innovation, which proved to be the differentiator.

South African workers in more innovative companies are far more likely to feel empowered to make decisions and approach their jobs in a way that works best for them. In fact, 56 percent say they can make a decision without a manager’s involvement – this compared with just 35 percent of those working in less innovative companies. They also feel it’s okay to make mistakes (66 percent) compared with 47 percent in less innovative cultures,” explains Microsoft SA in a press release sent to Hypertext. 

On this front, enabling greater hours of “flow state” proved significant. This term is used to describe a person’s ability to devote their full attention to the task at hand, which ultimately leads to superior output.

“In local businesses with innovative workplace cultures, 42 percent of the workforce say they are frequently able to get into such a flow state. Only 16 percent say so in less innovative companies,” Microsoft SA highlights.

“One straightforward step to take to help people stay in a flow state is to ensure they have proper training on tools like Microsoft Teams, and are using features like ‘do not disturb.’  This helps people take control of their day and make time for the work that takes focus,” advises Erasmus.

Innovation is fueled when people feel empowered to connect with colleagues, take smart risks and speak up when they have new ideas. Successful teams will be characterised by how productive they are as well as the sense of comradery, empathy and trust each team member feels. This is the very human key to innovation,” he concludes.

It therefore looks like 2021’s most innovative companies will be determined by how effectively they allow their workforce to do their jobs, along with how tightly-knit the teams can be while working remotely.  

[Image – Photo by Surface on Unsplash]