2020 was a rough year. A global pandemic broke out, shaking the foundation of our established life- and workstyle, while a social movement made us question the ethics of the society we live in. It was also a very unusual year. We stayed at home. We worked from home. We communicated online. Having those events happening triggered big changes that will play out in the upcoming two-to-three years to define the norms in the (business) world. That made us think: how will the future look? It’s impossible to do a lookback without thinking about what comes next.
1. Remote work will be a demand
Home is where your heart is, and work is where your office is. Or it used to be that way. In 2020, the lines between home and office became blurry. The concept of remote working has been around for a while, but in 2020, implementing it became a necessity. The pandemic hit quickly, and it caught organizations unprepared and stressed about the way they would communicate and ensure their workforce is aligned and engaged out of the office.
In the meantime, employees adapted to remote work. Some found it difficult but many of them loved it. They realized they don’t need to be at a place normally associated with productivity to be productive – if they could do their job from outside the office, they could do it from anywhere. Their family and their job were brought in one place – home became the office and the office became home. Combining both was a challenge, but many remained productive.
98% of the employees would like to have remote working hours for the rest of their career
97% would recommend working remotely to a friend
70% of the employees are happy with the amount of time they spent workingremotely
Organizations also felt the impact of remote work – employees were happier and more productive, while operational costs decreased. Given the situation, what more could they wish for?
That shaped a vision for a future where employees have the freedom to decide where to work from, and going to the office is an option, and not a requirement – a win-win for both employees and organizations. A workforce dominated by Millennials and Gen Z-ers that has already seen the benefits of remote work will now start demanding the freedom to choose the atmosphere they work in. And they’ll be in the position to do it. They’re young and ready to hustle, and if they don’t find it at your company, they’ll find it somewhere else. Employee satisfaction is a key factor for them and giving the freedom to choose is a way to achieve it. The future isn’t about choosing home over the office, it’s about having the freedom to choose between both.
2. Internal Communications technology
The challenge of switching to remote work brought another one: providing the technology to make communication and collaboration possible. Digital Internal Communications tools have been a longtime partner-in-crime of Internal Comms, making communication easy and transparent. They’ve also had their way with employee-engagement increases, as people could now interact, instead of just consume information. Internal Comms technology carried out communication throughout the pandemic and kept the workforce connected.
In a future where remote work is demanded, technology-driven asynchronous communication platforms are the only way to keep workflow consistent and preserve your company culture. With remote working being more and more present, companies will need to ensure that employees communicate and collaborate as efficiently as they did in the good not-so-old times when they used to come to the office daily. Your company’s culture was built and kept through interaction, so you’ll need a platform to keep the employees close to each other, regardless of the distance.
A future that inevitably turns to digital won’t wait for you to find the right time to invest in appropriate technology, so start looking for the Internal Comms tools that are relevant to your business needs! Think of hosting an internal podcast – they’re the fastest growing digital channel (with up to 64% growth in 2019). For now and in the immediate future, digital channels will be your only channels. Pick a couple of alternatives and run tests to see which one your employees like best; keep in mind their opinion is what matters the most – you’re doing it for them, after all. The cheapest digital tool won’t serve you if employees can’t adopt it organically, so don’t invest in something that they will avoid using. Here’s a hint: your investment would pay off in an engaged staff if you provide them with Internal Comms technology tools with a user-friendly interface – if they use it intuitively, chances of organic adoption are higher.
Sadly, the near future won’t give us flying cars, but it will give us the tools to make another step towards digital Internal Communications. Our best advice? Start looking for digital solutions – the future belongs to quick adopters.
3. Measurable Internal Comms
2020 was the year of the long-awaited recognition of Internal Comms. They got their five minutes of fame for proving their value through tying workforces together and enabling them to communicate in these critical times. And when something proves to be valuable, you strategize to make it a long-lasting asset.
But you can’t build a corporate strategy around sweet talk. No CEO’s gonna buy that unless you speak Analytics – the future language of Internal Comms. They can argue your words, but they can’t argue with numbers and stats. Using analytics, Internal Communicators can track employee engagement, participation, even adoption and usage rates of digital tools. We bet they’re tired of repeating where the pain-points of your organization are and what needs to be improved without being heard. Now they’ll have the hard proof for it.
4. A different kind of work-life balance
Did work-life balance improve just because we worked from home? That surely can be the case for some. For others, using the living room as an office and pajamas as a new business look seemed to be the right balance between work and life only at the beginning. Ensuring work-life balance isn’t necessarily Internal Comms’ core purpose, but it can provide a couple of tips for employees to avoid drops in productivity and engagement.
Corporate culture isn’t only in the organization’s beliefs and values. It's the artifacts that employees see first when they walk into the office. While Internal Comms makes sure that employees stay aligned with the corporate values and strategy, you can think of bringing a piece of corporate culture home. Stick a poster from the office on your wall, or bring your favorite item from there. Don’t forget to take breaks: you might not be at the office, but you’re still working. Schedule online coffee breaks or lunches for your employees – let them reconnect with each other and bond around something else rather than work. Most importantly, be strict with your working hours. It’s okay if you work 30 minutes overtime if there’s a task you want to finish so badly, provided that happens once in a while. But don't forget: the main reason you can’t distinguish workfrom life when your home and office are one and the same, is because most people don’t call it a day when they normally would.
5. Diversity and Inclusion is Internal Comms' new focus
We’re looking to the future while we still haven't solved problems from the past. 2020’s social movements resonated in a professional aspect, launching Diversity and Inclusion higher-up on the organization’s agenda than ever before. In other words: this is something that Internal Comms needs to focus on more than ever.
Ensuring diversity in the workplace is essential, both for the Internal and the External Communications of a company. Looking at the problem from inside out, diversity in the workforce brings a new perspective to your business and creates an environment of tolerance and cultural sensitivity. And what shines internally, will shine externally. Bringing in diverse talents isn’t where the process stops – they also need to feel included. Start surveying different employee segments and see what their needs are. Getting to the root of the problem is the first step to retention. Finally, let’s not forget: diverse teams perform better,period. Diversity and Inclusion movements have a tendency to over-rely on “taking the moral high ground”, when the facts are plain as day – diversifying your workforce will increase profit. And that’s a language any business speaks.
For the future, get on board the D&I train before it runs you over. Not engaging with it isn’t just a lack of social responsibility – it’s just not professional, as your business could be missing out on performance increases. A room full of the same people is also harmful to your company’s image, and let’s face it: nobody would work for an organization that society has negative associations with. I wouldn’t either. Oh, and lastly, we learned one of the most important lessons on D&I ever: this is not a PR thing. Focus your internal strategy and resources on hiring, onboarding, including and retaining a diverse workforce instead. In other words, practice what you preach.
From an Internal Comms perspective, I optimistically think 2020 was a good year. It was an unforeseen challenge, one that showed how strong the connection between people and organizations can be. Gareth Morgan wasright: organizations are machines – they’re also cultural systems, they’re brains, they’re organisms...with the help of Internal Comms, of course.
“Things will never be the same”, as the song goes. We’re looking forward to the future.