Going Back to Work, Looking Forward to a Better Workplace

The challenges of the COVID-19 crisis continue, but amidst the uncertainty and upheaval, millions of people are going back to work. As we go back, companies and organizations should also be looking forward — to how they can create better, safer workplaces that make for happier employees and improved bottom-line results.

Indeed, change is inevitable, as every sector of society deals with widespread disruption caused by the pandemic. But the challenges are particularly acute across mission-critical industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and oil and gas, whose operations largely depend on hourly or shift workers.

Never before have workforce managers faced such complex obstacles in keeping their businesses running and their employees safe. Not only have they tackled the monumental task of keeping things running during the pandemic, now they’re tasked with new health regulations like social distancing protocols, upheavals in operations based on market demand dips or spikes, and shifts in workforce availability.

These urgent problems need immediate solutions, which are crucial for a company’s survival and success — not just in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, but over the long-term. And savvy workforce managers are taking advantage of this unique opportunity by letting technology take on the heavy lifting to adapt their businesses to the new normal of the workplace.

Accelerated Change Demands Immediate Solutions

In the wake of the pandemic, consultant giant KPMG, one of the world’s authorities on management, has established a Global Recovery Framework that spans four phases as companies adapt to the pandemic: Reaction, Resilience, Recovery, New Reality. Many companies have moved through the first two phases of reaction and resilience (though many others haven’t survived), and some are now shifting into recovery mode: How can we get back on track? What are the next steps to transforming our workplace? How can we assure that we’re not just surviving, but thriving?

This must be a thoughtful, strategic approach, to be sure. But it can’t drag out: This is accelerated change that requires immediate solutions. According to one industry expert, the manufacturing industry, for example, will do five years’ worth of innovation in 18 months.

This means it’s an ideal time for workforce managers to finally phase out antiquated, inefficient systems that have been time-suck headaches for far too long, like manual shift scheduling via phone trees and cumbersome spreadsheets, for example. These patchwork systems are stressful, cumbersome, and costly — and their time is up.

The good news? There’s a much better way via automation technologies, such as workforce scheduling solutions, that have the power to innovate workplaces and processes not just in the wake of the pandemic, but over the long-term. As a result, organizations can become more operationally agile — and worker-centric, since these technologies can be configured to create schedules that meet the business’s operational goals while also considering every factor from employee preferences, to union and safety rule compliance, to overtime equalization.

Time to Lean In and Listen to Employees

During the course of the pandemic, much public discourse has analyzed the new work-from-home shift transforming the corporate landscape. Far less discussed, however, is the fact that there are nearly 82 million hourly workers in the United States who make up 60 percent of the workforce — many of whom are unable, because of the nature of their jobs in mission-critical industries like manufacturing or healthcare, to work from home. These front-line workers are often the unsung heroes who keep the economy going and life running as normally as possible for the general public.

For workforce managers, the COVID-19 crisis presents a unique opportunity to not only recognize those workers for their invaluable contributions, but to create a better employee experience moving forward by listening and learning. Some managers may be surprised to discover, for example, that many hourly and shift workers value work-life balance as a critical factor in their job satisfaction — even higher than pay — which, for hourly workers, is closely tied to how much control they have to manage their time (i.e., the ability to easily pick up a shift).

Compounding the challenges of the pandemic, many countries also are facing a new reckoning over diversity and inclusivity following widespread social justice protests. Now more than ever, managers must be committed to creating workplaces and environments that are fair and equitable for all employees.

These issues underscore another major task facing workforce managers: creating a culture of clear, consistent communication with employees. In times of crisis like the current pandemic, efficient, reliable communication systems are critical in keeping employees, especially hourly employees and shift workers, informed about scheduling issues, new hygiene protocols, and when available shifts come open. But traditionally, managers have avoided implementing system-wide change, instead opting to continue grappling with unwieldy, ineffective strategies (like those infamous phone trees).

However, in the grip of the pandemic, those outdated systems can present serious risks to both employee well-being and bottom-line results. Workforce automation technologies make it a cinch to streamline communication company-wide, enabling up-to-the-minute reporting and updates and ensuring that everyone understands what’s happening, when, and why.

A New-and-Improved Workplace for the New Normal

The full scope of the pandemic and its effects on society remains to be seen. But even with all the uncertainty, business leaders can set themselves up for survival — and success — through innovation. Through Shiftboard’s technology, organizations can transform antiquated processes to become more operationally agile and worker-centric.

They offer workforce managers the chance to intentionally create the kind of environment where people want work — places where they can enjoy what they’re doing, collaborate with colleagues, and get the job done. Places that they’re looking forward to getting back to.