In Depth: The Future of Work Part 2

The future of work is now. You’ve prob­a­bly heard that being said since the onset of COVID-19 and the growth of remote work. Well, it’s true and as the nature of how work gets done changes, so too does the way HR’s func­tion plays out.

In part 1, we took a look at cur­rent trends, spoke to experts and focused on the learn­ing and devel­op­ment are­na when it comes to the future of work. In part 2, we’ll dive into oth­er HR spe­cial­ties and con­sid­er how they are chang­ing as well.

Talent Acquisition

In addi­tion to tal­ent acqui­si­tion, there are oth­er areas that need some trans­for­ma­tion. That includes human resources itself.

“It’s absolute­ly crit­i­cal to put in the time to learn new things, espe­cial­ly when it comes to HR Tech­nol­o­gy. Don’t let fear of the unknown, or a lack of under­stand­ing about tech­nol­o­gy scare you away,” Tra­cie Spo­nen­berg, Chief Peo­ple Offi­cer of the Gran­ite Group said.

And the sta­tis­tics are cer­tain­ly on her side. Accord­ing to a report by Har­ris Inter­ac­tive and, those com­pa­nies adopt­ing HR are 19% more effec­tive in reduc­ing the time HR spends on admin­is­tra­tive tasks.

While we’ve seen con­tin­ued changes to the pro­fes­sion as a result of tech­nol­o­gy, we’ve also seen a real need for HR prac­ti­tion­ers to focus on employ­ees at the same time. HR automation/robotic process automa­tion (RPA) pro­vides the abil­i­ty for the focus to be shared and mak­ing sure goals are met. Some of those admin­is­tra­tive tasks include ben­e­fits man­age­ment, form pro­cess­ing and even employ­ee ques­tions relat­ed to poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. Chat bots are help­ful in this par­tic­u­lar instance.

Addi­tion­al­ly, automa­tion with the help of pro­vid­ed data can reduce pain points and dri­ve change across the busi­ness. For instance, in a man­u­al process, there is some lev­el of human error that can hap­pen. While errors in automa­tion do occur, it is at a much low­er rate. Automa­tion can be used to auto­mate forms and work­flows that avoid print­ing, sign­ing and scan­ning. It can also auto­mate the dis­sem­i­na­tion of those doc­u­ments to ensure they are deliv­ered to the appro­pri­ate peo­ple. And, it can also help in pulling data, fill­ing out sys­tems and data­bas­es and ele­vat­ing man­u­al data entry.

“If HR takes the time to auto­mate the rou­tine day-to-day tasks and ‘paper­work,’ we can be free to real­ly dig into strat­e­gy and peo­ple devel­op­ment — coach­ing, train­ing and devel­op­ing our team mem­bers to be pre­pared for the future of work — what­ev­er that may mean to our indi­vid­ual indus­tries and com­pa­nies,” Spo­nen­berg said.

Remote Work

In addi­tion to being pre­pared for the future of work as Spo­nen­berg said, HR must keep an eye on where work is going to be hap­pen­ing. There aren’t many places where it’s hap­pen­ing in office build­ings any­more. It’s hap­pen­ing in home offices and pub­lic spaces that can accom­mo­date social dis­tanc­ing. It’s like­ly to stay that way as more and more work­ers have embraced flex­i­ble sched­ul­ing and remote work.

Remote work has quick­ly become a real­i­ty for many dif­fer­ent indus­tries, but that trend was already occur­ring before the pan­dem­ic. There had already been a 173% increase in peo­ple work­ing remote­ly since 2005. Addi­tion­al­ly, 75% of work­ers say they’re more pro­duc­tive at home.

Some of the rea­sons giv­en include few­er dis­trac­tions and less com­mut­ing. This presents a fair amount of chal­lenge. A big one cen­ters on engage­ment. Remote work­ers aren’t that much dif­fer­ent from brick-and-mor­tar employ­ees and the con­cerns are sim­i­lar. Remote work­ers, just like those sit­ting in the office, are at risk for leav­ing the orga­ni­za­tion with­in the first year and even leav­ing to pur­sue oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to advance. That means they need just as much atten­tion when it comes to engage­ment. In some instances, more atten­tion is necessary.

Stemming the Tide

To solve issues relat­ed to the reten­tion of remote work­ers, first think about set­ting expec­ta­tions. The whole point of remote work is not hav­ing to go into the office. As such flex­i­ble work sched­ul­ing is typ­i­cal­ly a piece of the over­all remote work­ing strat­e­gy. To be more to the point – work­ers prob­a­bly aren’t work­ing a 9‑to‑5 shift if they’re off-site. That being said, man­agers can set par­tic­u­lar expec­ta­tions such as times the employ­ee is expect­ed to be “on the clock.” Some peo­ple refer to these as “busy hours” or “office hours.” It’s dur­ing this time remote work­ers should be expect­ed to be prompt in their respons­es to emails and phone calls as well as be avail­able to col­lab­o­rate with the team.

Sec­ond­ly, these work­ers must be includ­ed and that requires atten­tion-to-detail and tech­nol­o­gy. If a team is meet­ing at the office to dis­cuss strat­e­gy or any­thing for that mat­ter, remote work­ers should be allowed to par­tic­i­pate. They should actu­al­ly be expect­ed to do so. With tools such as Zoom and Skype avail­able, there’s no rea­son they should not be includ­ed in the conversation.

Final­ly, think about rewards. There’s a mis­con­cep­tion that remote work­ers don’t work near­ly as much as those peo­ple sit­ting in an office. That is very far from the truth. In most instances, remote work­ers work longer hours than those in the office; about 46 hours a week. That being said, it’s impor­tant to reward these work­ers. If they are hit­ting their goals, that needs to be rec­og­nized. That nat­u­ral­ly ties into productivity.

There is some real con­cern remote work­ers, in addi­tion to alleged­ly work­ing less, aren’t near­ly as pro­duc­tive as their in office coun­ter­parts. Again, that’s a mis­con­cep­tion. Look to CTrip, China’s largest trav­el agency. A pro­fes­sor from Stan­ford stud­ied whether or not remote work was “ben­e­fi­cial or harm­ful for pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.” It took two years to com­plete the study and what the pro­fes­sor found is a pro­found increase in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty for a group of remote work­ers over their in-office counterparts.

It wasn’t all “sun­shine and rain­bows”, how­ev­er. Those remote work­ers did report an increase in feel­ing lone­ly and many report­ed they didn’t want to work from home all the time. In the end, the rec­om­men­da­tion was to cre­ate a hybrid of sorts; one that bal­anced work­ing from home and in the office.

Words of Advice

There is no stop­ping the future of work. In fact, as this report has explained it’s already here. While it is a con­cern for every HR pro­fes­sion­al work­ing today and those who are about to enter the prac­tice, there are words of encour­age­ment to be shared.

By Mason Stevenson

Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on

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