4 companies share lessons from 2020 and predictions for the future of work

Amidst all the uncertainty of 2020, one thing is for sure: the future of work looks very different to what it looked like even a year ago. The way we work has changed forever. And it’s not such a bad thing, according to the four panellists in our recent webinar, aptly called The Future of Work.

We kicked off the webinar with a discussion about the results of our recent research on the impact of COVID-19 on Australian office workers. A key theme coming out of the research was that the vast majority of people don’t want to go back to the old way of working. While they may crave the social interactions that occur naturally within workplaces, they also want to hold onto the flexibility and freedom that comes with working from home.

How do companies achieve both? How do you foster relationships and human interactions, while also supporting people to work from anywhere, anytime? In our webinar, we opened the floor to four panellists to find out. Here’s what they had to say.

People and businesses are amazingly adaptable

One of the main messages coming out of the discussion was how adaptable and resilient people are. The panellists all agreed that there are definite positives emerging from this year’s turbulence. Across the board, companies are seizing the opportunity to change, and their people are embracing it.

As Tijs Creemers, Retail Operations Program Delivery Manager, AIA said, “While there was initial discomfort as people found a new rhythm and way of working, it didn’t take long to adapt.”

Damien Gooden, CEO, HR Central, concurred. “It’s amazing how people can adapt to change. The digital transformation has been massive. I wonder if, without the pandemic, there would be more push back and it would be harder to get things done. When it’s thrust upon you, there’s a great ability to respond.”

Technology has played a pivotal role in business

Companies have been transforming many of their processes at warp speed. In a pre-pandemic world, it might have taken years for a company to get a new digital project off the ground. This year, new tools and technologies have been rolled out, by necessity, in a matter of weeks. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to accelerate digital transformation.  

Agreements and contracts are a great example of this. For many businesses, contracts play a central role in keeping the wheels of business in motion. There was a huge urgency to convert paper-based agreements into digital ones as cities around the world went into lockdown.

At The Warehouse Group in New Zealand, the pandemic reinforced that the technology decisions they have been making in recent years were the right ones. Pooja Shenoy, Manager, Talent Relationships, said, “We have had Docusign since 2016, so we were well prepared to issue contracts digitally. We use Docusign for HR – things like new starter contracts and variations – and it is reducing the time it takes to onboard team members.”

AIA is also using Docusign as a means to empower its large network of independent financial advisers to get their work done more efficiently. “Docusign is a critical piece in this. We’ve enabled 62 forms in seven weeks, and another dozen or so PowerForms enabling self-service for advisers. It has taken full flight very quickly as a result of COVID,” said Tijs.

In Singapore, Hmlet is using technology to support flexible pathways and make sure that remote workers are set up for success. As Kate Williams, Senior Director, People Operations explained, Hmlet is using Salesforce and Docusign to do everything digitally. “It’s simply a better way of working.”

And technology has played a key role for people, too

Our aforementioned research found that 41% of remote workers miss interacting with their co-workers. This comes as little surprise – when you’re not in the office, you don’t get the opportunity to have those incidental chats around the water cooler; and it can be harder to get to know your colleagues. Yet, as our panellists have proven, there are plenty of other ways to build relationships when you’re all working remotely.

At The Warehouse Group, employees have embraced Workplace by Facebook. Pooja said, “It has increased engagement for team members and has become the main source of keeping in touch with other colleagues. The social activities that we would have normally done during coffee breaks, we do online – from recipe swaps and Netflix reviews, to quiz nights and games like Spot the Difference.”

Indeed, Pooja believes that social interaction has increased during the pandemic.

Hmlet was quick to set up non-work channels in Slack to enable colleagues to share their favourite movies, recipes, even pet pictures. “We encoruage our people to showcase their skills and hobbies while connecting with one another. We also use the Slack Donut tool, which randomly selects two people to share a virtual donut and get to know each other,” said Kate.

Who would have thought that companies would be using a tool like Slack Donut to encourage their people to connect? As 2020 has shown, anything can happen.

Looking to the future, change is inevitable

Work Futurist Dominic Price, from Australian tech company Atlassian, is positive about the changes that have occurred this year: “What’s certain is that a lot will change and we’ll probably never go back to the old normal. Many companies have offices that resemble production lines when we know this isn’t how creative knowledge work thrives. We have now lived through an experiment that has highlighted, if you put in the proper constructs, knowledge worker industries can work effectively from home.”

Want to learn more? You can catch the full recording of The Future of Work now, and you can read our report on The Rise of the Home Enterprise.

Or, get in touch today to see how Docusign can help your business prepare for the future of work – whatever it holds.

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