Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


The pandemic has given rise to a new reality which is expected to persist for years, even if a vaccine hits the shelves sometime in 2021. The uncertainties have changed businesses forever, accelerating the trends of digitization, virtualization and remote working. New and innovative models of work have emerged with increased emphasis on flexible and customized work models, the best of which will be made permanent in the future.

Businesses have largely responded to the crisis with short-term plans that address immediate priorities like enabling remote work, reviewing real estate costs, ensuring employee safety, etc. While focusing on business continuity, many companies are overlooking important value drivers like revenue, productivity, talent, customer acquisition, etc., at the cost of losing great business opportunities.

These companies must swiftly reinvent their organizational work mechanisms to support their employees and serve the new needs of their customers to seize new business opportunities and thrive in the next normal. BCG suggests a four-pronged integrated approach to help business leaders to first assess their company’s situation and then develop a customized strategy suitable for their company.

Business leaders must consider these four critical areas when designing “the future of work” while adopting a “holistic and intentional approach”:

  1. Embrace disruption and alter your work models
  2. Reset company leadership to empower and inspire
  3. Re-organize to become responsive yet resilient
  4. Re-imagine space to create smart environments

Embrace disruption and alter your work models

Reimagine customer relationships

The pandemic has substantially highlighted the importance of customers in a business. Leaders should pay heed to their customers’ needs and examine methods of customer engagement. Globally, in both B2C and B2B sectors, customers have shifted to virtual interactions – a trend that is expected to persist post-pandemic. Smart companies should see this as an opportunity to reach more customers and interact with them directly and offer deeper customer engagement to potentially boost business.

Develop an array of flexible work models

Each company has many job roles that are distinctly different. Leaders have to figure out which job roles require on-premise employee presence, and which ones can be done remotely with occasional congregation. Thus, an array of flexible work models must be developed that conform to each role and each individual.

New norms and guardrails must be implemented to ensure collaboration and coordination. Work activity data should be overlaid with individual preferences, team rules and organizational guardrails. This will create a set of employee personas, on the basis of which the company can design work models.

Unlock productivity

Lastly, companies must assess how well the new work models are succeeding in sustaining morale, productivity and creativity. In industrial and operational work models, input control usually ensures higher quality and efficient outputs but in knowledge work, assessing productivity requires a more experimental approach.

In collaborative and creative work, productivity is difficult to unlock and measure. More emails and increased meeting presence need not necessarily indicate more productivity. Companies must focus on ultimate outputs and outcomes and keep an eye on employee focus, participation and engagement to drove and assess productivity. To enhance company productivity advanced technology like automation ad AI must be imbibed based on priority.

  1. Reset company leadership to empower and inspire

The role of leaders and managers has failed to evolve much in the past decades but now times are different. The primary focus of leaders should be keeping a fragmented team spread across multiple locations, in complete sync. The present-day leaders need to shift focus from supervising to setting common goals, modularizing work and enabling teams, while practicing empathy.

Company leaders must be trained for remote management and empowering the frontline. In the face of the pandemic, leaders also have the responsibility to build and maintain a cohesive work culture because socially connected employees are expected to be 2.5 times more likely to match their pre-pandemic productivity, show a research by BCG. To achieve that company leaders must re-establish the company purpose and values and communicate that to the entire team.

At the societal level, new age leaders must aspire to drive sustainability goals and promote practices like build inclusion, increase diversity and equality.

To learn in detail about the last two areas – re-organizing work and building smart environments, read the second part of this article here.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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