2021 and the future Tele-everything Flexible Work Model
We all have at one point have stopped, and thought about the fact of the emergence of the ‘New Normal’ post the pandemic lockdown opening for most of the people returning to work, and raising the question, can we expect our work life to change post the pandemic lockdown considering that during the period of lockdown and restricted movements the people’s relationship with technology has deepened as larger segments of the work population has come to rely on digital connections for all aspects of their personal and work life? Known also as ‘Tele-everything’ by most people around the world, and among many of the digital changes that emerged through the world was the “Internet of Medical Things”, with sensors and devices that allow new kinds of patient health monitoring.
The pandemic has proven, that our reliance on remote-distance technologies and interfaces will accelerate. To quote McKinsey,: ”Most of the industries, specifically Telemedicine experienced a tenfold growth in subscribers in just 15 days. Similar acceleration patterns can be seen in online education, nearshoring, and remote working, to name but a few areas. All these trends were clear before the crises and have been amplified by it. “.
People have embraced the adoption of “remote” processes – telework, telemedicine, virtual schooling, and more. In particular, SAP has strengthened its internal network, digital communications, online connections, digital communities etc. for all its staff and customers globally. I find that SAP recognizes that the majority of people will continue to lead a ‘tele-everything’ virtual life as it improves their way of life and they have grown to build quality in their day to day lifestyle working remotely. Organisations have thrived through successful results, higher productivity, a fully involved workforce and enabled a work-life balance for their employees.
Marcel Fafchamps, professor of economics and senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, commented, “Here are some of the changes I anticipate:
- The generalization of work-from-home will change where people live – possibly away from city centres, but this need not be the case if people value their social life, as is likely, especially for the young – possibly into small towns as business districts force different people together by need rather than choice. If people can choose who they live with, they will sort on similar attributes, including wealth and all its correlates
- By reducing the cost of congestion inherent to having a workforce in large office buildings, these changes will enable even more prominent firms, leading to an even stronger concentration of corporate power into a small number of key actors. The work-from-home industries that were fuelled during the pandemic lockdown that demonstrated no geographical constraints or restrictions ranged from the Financial & Banking sector with the NEO Bank models, Services, IT organisations and many more
In 2020 and into 2021, SAP pursued an initiative to take feedback from its global workforce, and 94% of employees voted to take advantage of any flexibility the company provides. SAP decided to offer a flexible and inclusive work environment and ground the model on a trust-based workplace. Fundamentally, the SAP global workforce has the flexibility to work from anywhere, but it held together on a very important realization of ‘how’ of work centres on trust. Thus, their pledge is a behavioural expectation model, not just one that dictates where the work can be performed.
In SAP, the way we use and think about technology as employees will progress further on the continuum of actual to virtual. This subjects us to improvise, incorporate creativeness in us to drive the role of digital technologies in our work lives, and learn to navigate the emerging metaverse. Potentially, It is supposed to address a high degree of overworked and overly stressed employees globally. The flexible work model will constitute a series of new ways to think about the further integration of work and life, and having had taken the decision to transition on a flexible work model, the plan is for SAP to get ahead of the curve. The interpretations of the flexible work model, hybrid model, for some, also means “the ability to connect and get work done from anywhere,” and others “to be able to work from home a couple of times a week.” – hybrid work.
SAP’s decision to offer a flexible and inclusive work environment and ground the model, will enable it to now work towards maturing the model to also provide flexibility and autonomy for how and what work is performed, building networks of teams and technology to augment work and collaborate in ways that deliver best outcomes for customers, and employees. The flexible work model with managerial support enables employees to balance work with lifestyle and family commitments. In an article published by Stephen Koenan (https://blogs.sap.com/?p=1411226 ) on the ‘Future of Work and the evolving role of HR to lead change’, he has mentioned that HR needs to continue its digital transformation as a fundamental re-thinking of Employee Experience. HR would now acknowledge that in the context of the flexible work model, the employee is potentially looking at autonomy, being the primary decision-maker of where and when they do their work.
It has been demonstrated that during the pandemic, teams haven’t been co-located for over a year, and data e.g. study by Stanford of 16,000 workers, survey by ConnectSolutions, shows that productivity increased when knowledge workers worked separately. This is substantiated by SAP Q3 2021 very good performance across the business units, whereby there is a very positive upward trend across all categories. The key ingredient here that makes employees so productive when they are working apart from one another is employee autonomy. Based on the research results and facts, Autonomy is the key to getting “the new world of work” right, as this is the “new normal”. Across SAP globally, many employees have thrived with the increased autonomy of working remotely, because the success of the model depends on country managers and line managers subscribing to it globally. Through the resource theory, Cooper-Thomas, XU and Saks (2018) proposed that employee engagement is linked to emotions of warmth and caring are, therefore, more inclined to improve engagement. The implementation of the SAP flexible work model is now representative of an organisation’s trust towards their employees, which improves employee morale and motivation. This notion is supported by Chen and Fulmer (2017) who state that working from flexible locations may not necessarily improve job satisfaction, but the element of trust motivates employees to work harder in appreciation of the trust instilled in them.
I am keen and eager to look forward to the next steps of the SAP Flexible work model in further enabling employee autonomy in the Hybrid Work model within SAP knowing that it will deliver the best outcomes for customers, and employees.