Redefining the Next Normal

25th July 2022

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

COVID-19 has transformed the workplace over the past two years. A workplace’s meaning and function have been redefined despite the physical space still existing. A pandemic and rapid technological investment have forced many organisations to address the changes by introducing remote and hybrid work. Due to the pandemic, there has been a profound change in demand patterns of products and services across sectors. In tandem, it has been remarkable how quickly many companies have adapted, achieving unprecedented productivity and customer engagement levels. In light of this performance shift, staying abreast of the latest developments for sustainability in the competitive market is imperative. Leaders across industries must rethink how they work to position themselves at an advantage for the ‘next normal’.

Establishing a resilient operation is one of the most critical components of sustaining a successful business in the changing working environment. A successful company must redesign its processes to make them more resilient to a wider range of potential disturbances. Taking care of essential human needs is now more relevant than ever to create organic engagement within the organisation and with customers. The idea of remote work has been met with apprehension and reluctance among many organisations due to potentially decreased productivity. Nevertheless, a study published by IOS Press demonstrates that working remotely does not necessarily reduce productivity. The downside to remote work is the potential for employees of feeling disconnected from one another while facing the challenge of finding a reasonable median work-life balance. Working from home can easily blur those lines. Like anything in life, trial and error help restore order when it has reached the level of productivity organisations operate at today. Establishing a distinctive vision for the physical space that differs from orthodox business practices is beneficial and seems to be on the rise. As hybrid work models emerge, it suggests that organisations will have to consider the altered traffic and layout of their office spaces. As customer-facing work now looks significantly different than it used to, an organisation’s physical space should match its goals. For example, there might be no need for cubicles in the workplace after the pandemic, creating room for more innovative spaces.

Monitoring the impacts of any actions taken and being ready to adapt their approach as necessary should be part of a business’s planning. It is, therefore, crucial to create digitally enabled ecosystems to encourage growth and facilitate rapid adaptation. The impact of the pandemic is undeniable in many aspects, including the way people live and work globally. Yet, it has also brought about positive change in the world of business, helping them embrace a more flexible working environment which has revolutionised the future of work.