The COVID-19 pandemic has brought change to every facet of peoples’ lives, leaving so much of what was predicted about the characteristics and needs of “workforce 2025” out-of-date. It has given rise to a brand new generation of workers, Generation C (or the Connected Generation) who are bound by values, interests, personality traits, attitudes, and lifestyles – not when they were born. Members of Generation C (Gen C) include people from all five of the ‘traditional’ generational cohorts that, for the first time in history, may be currently employed in a single workplace at the same time.
In many respects, Generation C has put paid to the traditional concepts that define Baby Boomers, Generation X, Xennials (the unique group of individuals who are sandwiched between Gen X and Gen Y), Generation Y (or Millennials) and Generation Z (or Centennials). With this in mind, are employee assistance providers and professionals ready to support the 2025 workforce in the new normal?
Here are some of the factors that will influence the health and wellbeing of workforce 2025:
The role of the office will have changed
Organisations are expected to shrink their real estate footprint in the next few years as employees are not going to go back to working in the office five days a week. Offices are rather going to become hubs of innovation and social interaction. Interior design experts predict that more organisations will adopt what is known as “hoteling.” This means employees will no longer have an assigned desk, but will rather “hot desk”, working at an available desk that is ideal for the type of task or project they are working on at the time. Some office areas will be earmarked for quiet work while others will be designated for group discussions or team work. Not only have many organisations reconfigured workplaces to prevent infection, they have also grappled with how to address the pandemic’s toll on employees’ physical and mental health.
The 2025 remote talent pool will span provincial and national borders
Employers will welcome a broader pool of potential job candidates, since remote employees can live anywhere. For employees this means interprovincial or even international job prospects can be entertained while maintaining desirable lifestyle choices for employees who are reluctant to relocate to a different city because it would disrupt their quality of life, a spouse’s career or a child’s schooling.
Technology’s rapid advancement will continue, forcing organisations to keep rethinking how to integrate people with machines
The pandemic forced employers to adopt more digital and automated solutions practically overnight, as organisations sought to maintain production and service delivery while severely limiting or putting a stop to human interaction to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Continuing on this trajectory:
- Firstly, robot use will continue to escalate, having become more prevalent during the pandemic as companies seek to maintain production levels and reduce workers’ exposure to COVID-19. This increased use of technology will continue to eliminate jobs, the outcome of which is that companies will continually have to reskill employees to prepare them for new tasks and responsibilities.
- Secondly, an area that’s expected to continue growing enormously is organisations’ use of virtual reality, as fewer employees work at the same location. Companies are already using these technologies for training, telemedicine and team-building events.
- Thirdly, organisations will need to re-examine whether humanity and technology are truly divergent and consider how it is possible for them to resolve the apparent paradox to find ways to remain distinctly human-centric in a technology-driven world. Organisations should change their thinking about the adoption of technology and automation from taking a purely substitution view where they replace humans with technology, to devising ways to use technology in an augmentation or collaboration strategy.
Companies will continue investing heavily in health, hygiene and safety
In 2020, the virus pushed companies to grapple with health and safety issues like never before as COVID-19 turned a spotlight on worker health and safety across all industries, not just those that are known for being dangerous. The continued wearing of PPE and following of safety protocols by employees who have returned to their workplaces is likely to transform into the practice of enduring workplace testing protocols, installation of state-of-the-art ventilation systems, and high-tech detection equipment and use disinfectant tools in the long term. These efforts will continue to better prepare companies for future emergencies.
Workers will demand better treatment for themselves and their communities from their employers
To strengthen the link between a culture of belonging and organisational performance, successful organisations will take to performing beyond just treating their employees fairly and respectfully.
- They will enable a deeper employee connection by demonstrating tangible linkages as to how their contributions are making an impact on the organisation and society as a whole.
- They will consciously evaluate and inform themselves what principles best serve as the foundation for their compensation philosophy, policies and programmes. When appraising these principles, the conversation will not be limited to market value, but will also account for human value in the form of purpose, fairness, transparency, growth, and collaboration.
- They will be proactively seeking to keep abreast of and implement practices, protocols and policies that support the introduction of any new reforms aimed at racial justice and social equality.
Having an integrated employee mental health strategy is critical to the wellbeing of workforce 2025
Organisations will need to go further than just fostering open dialogue and open practices around wellbeing. Generation C (and by extension workforce 2025) expects wellbeing to be built into the DNA of organisational environments. Now is the time to embed wellbeing into every aspect of the design and delivery of work itself and to fundamentally redesign work toward outputs instead of activities. In the next few years organisations have the opportunity to leverage the power of AI to build a culture of everyday knowledge-creation and knowledge-sharing that strengthens organisational communication and connectivity, designed to build up employees’ resilience to be able to withstand, and even thrive in, environments full of disruption, uncertainty and change.
Here are four key elements for EAP to take onboard toward getting ready for workforce 2025:
- Move from manual: It is not that manual processes do not work, but that they are no longer as efficient and effective as automated tools.
- Adapt to Apps: Merge employee wellbeing with technology to support Generation C. The app universe is booming and there is an app for every action and interaction you may need. Adapt to integrating your existing work methods with customisable apps.
- Continue to connect through conversations: The importance of quality social connections is backed by research. Just like face-to-face interaction, every virtual employee interface should be made conversational to maintain people’s engagement and attention – the interaction with chatbots is an excellent example of a conversational interface.
- Get ready to support an ageing population: As people live longer it is suggested that they will also work for longer and there is an obligation for organisations to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing at all ages. What is more, HR teams need to prepare for the shifts associated with an ageing workforce to ensure progress and business objectives are achieved.