In March, everything changed in an instant. And now, for the past six months, we’ve been living in a remarkably different kind of world.

Our living rooms became boardrooms; our business lunches became Zoom chats and the supply chain was, for a time, crippled. The global pandemic changed the way we lived and the way we worked. While some of us thought the change was only temporary, maybe for a few weeks, we were actually experiencing the dramatic onset of the theoretical topic we all called “the future of work.”

 Working from home is no vacation: Productivity is up

Prior to the pandemic, there was a stigma around working from home. There was a notion that it was merely an excuse to have a free day out of the confines of the office. But recent research tells a different story: Now that we’re in the home office, we’re actually working longer, harder and being even more productive.

According to a DailyPay survey — polling employees whose companies give them the option to work remotely — the majority said they work longer hours and claim to be more effective.

Of the respondents, 60 percent said they work more hours from home, with 33 percent of those saying they work eight or more hours per week remotely — that is, more than 400 hours a year. Meanwhile, 48 percent said they are more effective when working remotely compared to 14 percent who claim they are less effective.

So, does the future of work translate into the eradication of offices permanently?

Not exactly: only 25 percent of the respondents expect to be working from home for the foreseeable future. And for the essential workers, who kept the economy running — and saved people’s lives — and almost certainly for teachers soon venturing back into the classroom, working from home might not ever be a full-time reality.

Employee benefits are transforming in interesting ways

From 401k to educational stipends, employers have changed a number of offerings to retain and attract staff in trying times.

Among the most talked-about introductions have been zero-cost benefits around pay. The antiquated system of waiting two weeks to be paid, sometimes with a paper check, now seems as outdated as office buffet lunches. Top Fortune 500 companies are already offering their employees an on-demand benefit that enables their staff access to their pay as they earn it. This provides them with more control over their finances and the safe, contactless digitization that they have come to expect in the new world. In fact, recent research shows that 74 percent of employees noted they are less stressed about their finances with a daily pay benefit.

Employers will almost certainly continue to offer new and interesting benefits. Any way to reduce employee stress can be a game-changer when it comes to the unpredictable nature of events, especially when there is absolutely no cost to the employer, and no needed change management either.

Contactless technology is a life-saver for essential workers

For essential workers in hospitals, supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, the workplace is becoming an increasingly contactless environment that highlights safety and efficiency.

Instead of high-touch punch cards or touch screens for which employees have often had to wait in line, employees can now simply wave an ID card or their cell phone to sign into work.

In supermarkets, scan-and-go technology has accelerated the mobile checkout experience — enabling staff to be re-deployed in other areas of the store — and also creates a safer experience for both the employee and the customer. The new technology comes at an opportune time, too. According to DailyPay’s “Rehire America Index,” the supermarket industry has seen a 63 percent increase in employee levels since January 1.

The hospitality industry is also prioritizing safety through new technologies. For hotels, guests can now use contactless technology to check-in and skip the dreaded long line that is often waiting for us after a long day of traveling. This measure creates a safer and more time-efficient experience for the customer and front-desk employee, who can now tend to more pressing needs of guests.

Diversity in leadership is now a must-have element

In a year that featured important cultural discussions regarding racial inequality, we also experienced a shift in the need for our companies to reflect society. The business that prioritizes diversity and champions inclusion is more aligned with their customers and better positioned for success.

Research clearly demonstrates that the future of work features more diversity in the C-suite and in the general workforce. Among the respondents, 65 percent said diversity in the overall staff makes a company better-positioned to relate to customers, and 63 percent said having female leaders in a company is good for business. And two-thirds of those surveyed said diversity in company leadership is important when deciding on where to apply for a job.

2020 has been unlike any year in memory. The workplace we know has been remade, but the change also represents a unique moment to reflect and change the way companies operate, from the inside out. Long-entrenched views on such things as remote working and digitization have changed. Diversity in the C-suite is now considered a prerequisite for a company’s viability and long-term success. If the future of work arrived faster than business leaders could have anticipated, they can still take a deep breath — and embrace it.

Via DigiDay.com