Brand and Marketing
Future of work in India post-COVID
16 Jul 2020
  • The ecosystem: Gig economy and remote workers are catalyzing the future of work
  • The organization: A renewed focus on soft skills and mental health is changing how we communicate and collaborate in the new normal
  • The individual: Staying agile and nimble to adjust to dynamic working conditions will define the winners of tomorrow
What are we working towards each day? 

A. To make things, systems, and our lives easier and better.

Does the future of work promise an easier or better tomorrow? Most of us will not have an answer today. But does it look anything remotely as January 2020? The answer is ‘No.’

Future of work is digital, shifting at an unprecedented rate, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

People and organizations swiftly adopting the new rules and creating a differentiator will be the winners of tomorrow. It is, therefore, imperative for us to recognize the changing needs of how we communicate and collaborate. These should circle back to the purpose of why we work, which is to make things, systems, and our lives easier and better. 

Looking back at the last quarter

The past few months have been the most challenging for everyone. Making us realize and foster the power and vulnerabilities we carry as human beings. None of us prepared for navigating through a global crisis of this nature. Having said that we are trying to wade it to the best of our ability. While doctors, caretakers, front-line law enforcers, and family support systems rose to the occasion, the white-collared ecosystem went through significant challenges as well.

As the leader of the Marketing and Communications function at Praxis Global Alliance my day-day-day role is centered on PEOPLE. As a team, we help communicate human experiences and collaborate with hybrid teams and vendors to solve issues and build trust. In the last couple of months most mundane issues have become pressing. This is due to multiple whammies delivered by COVID and recession. Overall, creating a feeling of grief, dismay, and depression continuing over a long period.

If we look at India, the country is known for its grace, patience, and resilience to handle the pressure. These qualities have helped the country bounce back quicker in earlier crises. Though, India too faced a halting breakdown in the COVID-19 lockdown months. This amplifies the need to refocus on the softer aspects of our personalities. Communication and collaboration are therefore key, to define and clarify our future vision. Especially for the working world, organizations directly addressing human challenges will be better prepared to handle them for other organizations and the broader ecosystem. These organizations stand a higher chance of coming out as the winners of tomorrow.

So, how can you become a ‘winner of tomorrow’ too? Addressing the top 3 future of work trends is most critical.

Remote work and gig workers are rising
In the new normal, embracing the fluid gig economy is crucial. There are three key aspects to it. One, full-time workers are looking to be treated as flexibly as remote ones. Two, remote and gig workers are expecting the same privileges as full-time employees of the organization. Three, hyper-connected millennial-led gig and remote workforce will be a significant one, further accelerated by COVID-19. This manifests itself tactically in many ways, for example:

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device is becoming the norm. This places equal responsibility on employees and organizations from a privacy and security perspective while allowing for more freedom and cost-effectiveness. Here, adhering to national and global guidelines and communicating them with impact are key.
Increasing physical distance is changing how we share information and collaborate. In the virtual world, communicating intent is tougher in absence of physical connect. To create a balance, there is an increased level of flexibility for people.

Focus on critical role-specific competencies or hard skills will become more important. How we collaborate with teams, supervisors, and associated ecosystems in a working environment depends on our confidence in the core skills for the job we are trusted with. A reduced human interface world has led companies to revisit their processes and role alignments and tighten them. This overhauling is reducing cushioning for expert/managerial roles, provided by additional jobs such as data-entry, and process coordination. Which are now moved to specialist roles. With only core skills under the radar, moving up the ladder will be about sharpening skill sets on the side of the employee, and reaffirming company purpose and goals in the revived view of the organization, on the side of the company.

Soft skills matter!
Soft skills prepare you to handle success as well as failure. In the future of work, hard and soft skills will be pari passu. HOW we achieve is as important as WHAT we achieve. While WHAT is defined by hard skills, HOW is defined by the soft skills.

COVID-19 situation has been testing our emotional intelligence, and balance on the personal and professional front. And, business mirrors the environment. To address various challenges on the professional front there are five things we should do. One, create a voice of positivity and security by aligning your communication with the purpose of the organization. Two, stay calm and nimble to accept reality. Three, adjust your organizational cultural to allow for greater flexibility and democracy. Four, individuals should hone soft skills including, creativity, cooperation, humility, innovation for better output. Five, build a service attitude that is balanced with assertiveness. Overall, how well we collaborate with a minimal human interface world for success will be a derivative of soft skills.
Mental health is gaining focus
While battling technology and logistical challenges, organizations have started contextualizing the impact on employee well-being and acting on it through new communication initiatives. My organization recently surveyed employee mental health and well-being in the new working conditions post-COVID. This was followed by several organizational measures aligned with the findings. In a financially and emotionally challenging time, while the companies take steps to ensure employee safety and well-roundedness through communication measures, numerous factors play a part in ensuring people feel safe and happy to perform their duties efficiently. 

According to a recent Horses for Sources research article, prolonged working hours, micro-management and lack of support from managers are key issues employees from the IT services industry faced in the last few months. This has caused regular stress, and undue pressure, which is detrimental to mental health. In these cases, usually, the underlying factor is how we communicate and collaborate. The answer here is expectation setting, which solves most problems. A mass burn-out is another big phenomenon rising out of the situation which can be handled with better time and peer management by using transparent communication between teams and supervisors.

As we take stock of the current situation, this crisis has pushed millions out of employment mandating a collective action from the Government, Organizations, Associations, Media, and Individuals. Therefore, creating awareness, uplifting, and understanding the unique ecosystem an individual is operating in, will accelerate our ‘back on track’ journey.  

As a country, India has started unlocking last month and getting back to work. My social media feed has been flooded with friends, folks from the media desks, ex-colleagues, and business partners posting photos of re-starting ‘work from office’. Some of them are sharing photos of empty office areas, much like having esoteric experiences in haunted mansions. That is frightening, but we must go on.

In times of COVID-19, a zeitgeist moment re-defining the ‘future of work’, nothing is impossible. These trends are also a unique ‘COVID opportunity’ for leveraging the power of collaboration, automation, balancing, and trend watching while saving costs. 

We have successfully landed in the second half of 2020. It is time to wait and watch how things unfold for work. Hopefully, the second half will be weighted towards happy news for all (fingers crossed).

Authored by: 
Parul Singh, Leader, Brand and Marketing Practice 
This post first appeared on Agency Reporter and has been published with permission. Read the original here.

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