Elizabeth Carroll, HR/Payroll Manager

If it feels like you’ve been on a rollercoaster for the past several months, you are not alone! From business activities to personal relationships, a lot has changed since January. No one knew the challenges 2020 would bring and it has been an eye-opening experience since the start. The way we do business, the effects on our people, and the challenges we face moving forward have all combined to change the landscape of how we work.

The New Normal
As COVID19 started to infect more and more people in late February and early March, many companies decided to move their workforce out of the office and into a work-from-home setup. Some companies were able to adapt quickly, while others faced obstacles. We saw many companies struggle with the lack of cloud-based systems for basic tasks such as tracking timecards, while others struggled with simply getting the internet set up to work remotely. Nowadays, businesses have started offering internet connections similar to hughesnet internet plans so that the work isn’t hampered. And, of course, there was the issue of data privacy which became very apparent with the newly coined “Zoombombing”, which quickly became a social media meme. All of these challenges highlighted the rapidly expanding need for change in how some businesses operate and whether they were positioned to adapt to this “new normal”.

We also saw an influx of new users for Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other team collaboration tools. To give you an idea of the exponential growth these companies have seen recently, Microsoft’s Teams platform is now at 75 million daily active users, up from 44 million in mid-March. That’s an increase of just over 70% in a mere 3 months. While there are other notable reasons for this increase, the majority of the growth has been attributed to the rise in users that are now working from home and in need of a tool for quick communication. In fact, Microsoft says they have seen a “roughly 40 percent increase” when compared to the same timeframe in 2019. Needless to say, COVID19 has definitely affected the way we do business and how people work.

Employee Experience Transformations
The employee experience has also changed significantly and will continue to evolve as people work from home, implementing such resources as voice chat, video communication, real-time messaging, and so on. Self-service options are on the rise, though this trend is not entirely due to COVID19. Millennials and Gen Z have long been expecting employers to offer mobile communication, automation, and engagement. These demographic cohorts grew up with smartphones and therefore expect immediate and on-demand workforce solutions. COVID19 has only highlighted the need for alternative options that automate and streamline employee interactions with Human Resources, Operations, Accounting, and Sales.

The other area of the employee experience that is shifting is with benefits – specifically around virtual care. Many healthcare companies are touting the benefits of virtual visits with an emphasis on mental health. Forbes just recently published an article about the “explosion of telehealth and virtual care” due to COVID19. Providers have seen staggering growth and are planning for providers and patients to continue using virtual care solutions long-term – an increase of about 25% of all services next year, up from about 3% pre-COVID19. Combined with the convenience of health apps from a range of providers, virtual health and wellbeing should be part of any company’s 2021 benefits strategy.

The third area of the employee experience that is shifting is in augmented- and virtual-reality (AR/VR) technology. In a survey conducted by Mojo Visio in late 2019 and aptly titled “Tomorrow’s Workplace Technology: What Happens When Things Get Personal”, surveyors found that while “75% of workers have never used AR/VR glasses, headsets, or similar devices on the job, 78% of workers would be open to using these devices if asked by their employer”. Additionally, “29% of respondents say VR technology will allow more people to work from home or in different locations instead of a traditional office space”. Cue COVID19 in early 2020 and the adoption of this technology got a push forward. In fact, virtual reality is forecasted to grow significantly by 2023. Figures vary by source, but the overall consensus is VR adoption and usage in the workplace will skyrocket over the next 3 years.

With all of these changes happening at a break-neck speed, companies need to get ahead of the shift to stay competitive and to provide an employee experience that is best-in-class. A focus on data privacy is paramount as data is moved into new systems and processes are automated or shifted to a virtual environment. The other area ripe for opportunity is with employee benefits. We all understand the need for competitive benefits, but options for employees such as virtual healthcare and expanded EAP, wellness, and carrier apps are reshaping the benefits landscape. Employees expect their benefits to keep pace with the technological changes as a result of working from home and that means flexibility in managing their health. It is clear that by utilizing new technologies and embracing changes in how we operate, we will be able to keep up with the evolution of the modern workplace.

If you need cloud-based digital transformation solutions, Paradigm is available for a complimentary consultation. You can reach out to our team at info@pt-corp.com any time to discuss options.