Not only has the global pandemic created new challenges and fears around health and safety, but it also impacted our lives and workplaces in unprecedented ways.
Those who are lucky to be employed are working with new home office arrangements while juggling kids and unpredictable school schedules or going into work with new safety precautions and health concerns.
While all situations are unique, everyone is learning to navigate a new roadmap. Because we’ve seen so many drastic shifts in 2020, the 2021 workplace experience will reflect these changes as companies continue evolving in the areas that make them strong – their technology and their employees.
It’s not over yet
Even with the vaccines, it has become evident that companies will be operating in pandemic world well into 2021. Because of this, organizations must be ready for change – however unexpected – whether that’s moving to a fully remote setup or rewriting workplace protocols.
No matter what shifts a company is making, technology can be of critical help in navigating these challenges while also managing teams’ wellbeing. For example, time and attendance systems can send pulse checks to employees to see how they are feeling after a shift or furlough and can also ensure they have the protective equipment they need if working on-site.
Fatigue management systems can track how many hours or shifts employees have worked and alert managers when certain staff members need breaks or vacation to reduce the chance of burnout. Physical health can also be monitored through tech-enabled contact tracing and pre-shift health screenings to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
HR teams and managers are doing their best to manage their teams through these trying times, and we’re seeing new technology introduced that can help make time-strapped HR teams’ lives easier and – in turn – enhance employees’ experiences.
Pressure to upgrade tech
We’ve heard a lot of conversation about remote work, but what many people forget is that more than half of the workforce has to work in-person; in today’s environment, managing onsite workers is even more challenging.
Many of these workers – like factory workers, educators, bank tellers, healthcare workers and others – are paid by the hour which means there are different rules, labor regulations, compliance obligations and scheduling needs for these employees than there are for salaried workers.
Paper-based processes or outdated on-premise tools are no longer effective given how quickly needs are changing. Companies are feeling the urgency to upgrade technology across all areas of their organizations.
But the critical functions of ensuring employees are paid correctly and on time, staying compliant with legal changes, and workforce demand forecasting and management have never been more important.
HR and payroll teams are often understaffed with a lot of challenging work on their plates, and leaders are finally realizing that they need to be relieved in 2021 as making these processes better benefits the wider team and company overall.
Flexible and agile
With workplace technology, agility and flexibility are critical. Companies that were able to pivot quickly were most successful in the pandemic workplace.
When investing in new technology tools and systems, companies must ensure the software they are buying is configurable and intuitive for all team members. Many of the manufacturing companies we work with at WorkForce Software had to turn hazard pay on and off at the touch of a button as virus infection levels change regionally.
As brick and mortar retailers closed their doors and e-commerce boomed, companies had to shift and allocate more staff to call centers and warehouses. The more flexible a system is, the better it is for a company which can ultimately help that organization weather an unexpected storm or pivot as needed.
Employee experience matters
Even if we do return to an office-first environment, technology will always remain critical to operations of modern workplaces. In corporate America, tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams are booming, and for on-site workers, workforce management systems are used multiple times a day so that these employees can log their time, request time off, or view their schedules.
While the primary goal of these systems was initially to reduce manual work, there is opportunity to leverage these tools to improve the overall work experience.
Whether it’s AI that can notify managers when people have worked too many shifts in a row or tools that allow workers to switch shifts with colleagues through the system, there is a lot of power in this technology.
In fact, it can also support new employee onboarding through smart scheduling, pairing new workers with experienced employees so that these new joiners can learn from others on the team. Regardless of how it is ultimately implemented, there are many ways that technology can help humanize the workplace.
McKinsey recently reported that many companies are accelerating their digital transformation, and of all HR systems, workforce management tools have been shown to have the highest return on investment.
In some cases, that ROI can fund an entire HR transformation project. 2020 set the stage, and in 2021, companies will continue ramping up technology investments that can add proven value to their operations.
We are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the picture isn’t clear just yet. Because of the pandemic, 2020 challenged people to re-evaluate their personal and professional priorities, and the workplace has become human again.
Companies are placing a higher value on taking care of their employees and are looking for technology that will help them achieve that goal. While what’s next isn’t fully clear, we know that technology will be a big part of the future and the changes we see.