Unless you have a crystal ball, no one knows the actual extent to which workplaces will change this year. The chaotic reign of COVID will stay long after the pandemic and the vaccines are over.
Employers worldwide have had to become agile creatures to give workplaces a makeover in the name of safety, where better business outcomes are still possible.
New buzz words have entered the urban dictionary—remote, lock-down, new-normal, pandemic fatigue, flexible work, hybrid, and 715, meaning the introduction of working seven days a week for 15 hours a day. The list is endless.
Remote work has been legitimized and is no longer the domain of digital nomads meandering the globe. Office buildings stand empty in deserted business districts and the hated commute to the office on public transport is a thing of the past.
Ways the Workplace Will Change in 2021
How will this new business landscape impact the workplace and the way we connect and create? Will this be the catalyst to change the face of inequalities in the workforce because of gender, age, race or disadvantages in some way?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Riots slapped people in the face during the pandemic with the Black Lives Matter movement. Financial hardships of the lower socio-economic classes saw queues at charity doors. At the same time, unchecked tempers and frustrations boiled over at country leaders’ perceived lack of leadership. These events have led society to expect accountability, not just from governments but from businesses and organizations as well.
Diverse is not an adjective to put before ‘people,’ as everyone is an individual.
Diversity is a descriptive word of ecosystems, companies and teams. Equity is meeting everyone’s different needs as individuals, not merely treating people equally. And, inclusion is also a question of how do you make employees feel valued, whether they are a part of a team or a large organization.
Inclusion is not a question of uttering the right words.
Inclusion requires a workplace designed to accommodate individual needs in a workspace. Such as a quiet physical space for prayer or meditation. It’s about feeling valued and included.
People want more from their workplace than the pre-pandemic unsustainable model, where discrimination played an ugly part. By implementing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, new and sustainable opportunities will open up.
More talent will be accessible if human bias plays no part in recruiting procedures. Think along the lines of disabled people and stay-at-home mums that do want to work and do have the talent.
Hybrid “work from home/work from office” setup
The year 2020 has seen significant changes in how employees have navigated their own productivity. For digital nomads, it was a shift to being a digital stay-at-home, due to the closure of international borders.
Working remotely became the new normal for every office worker during the extensive lock-down periods. As restrictions have gradually lifted, there was a half-hearted attempt to get back to the office, combined with getting stuff done at home. Hence, the birth of the hybrid-work model.
Face-to-face meetings went virtual, and kitchen benches became pseudo office desks. Responsible time management became an individual’s problem to solve in between taking the dog for a walk, doing household chores, and pacifying squabbling off-spring.
The world of business in 2020 morphed as it found solutions to the problems caused by the pandemic.
Organizations revised their antiquated nine-to-five Orwellian work practices as IT and technology brought about unforeseen possibilities for employee engagement. Conferencing software became the go-to method for business meetings, water-station gossip sessions and virtual kitchen chats. Zoom, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, and FaceTime, all became avenues for coworkers to connect.
Houseparty was the favorite for collaborative creative souls, later replaced by Clubhouse, and Microsoft Teams and Skype were the haunts for serious communications.
Startups have emerged to solve the issues that have emerged during these “new normal” of COVID times.
One such problem solver, Nooka Space, hit the market running with a mission to make working at home a better experience.
Nooka is a network of smart and Wi-Fi connected backyard office spaces that not only look stunning, but that solve the practicalities of working at home. From an ergonomic chair to a smart heating/cooling system, height-adjustable desk, to a whiteboard to scribble on, the appealing features give you privacy and your very own creative personal space. They combine all of the benefits of working from home with the convenience of having an office environment and the facilities required to get your stuff done.
These ingenious pods are aiming to change the way people live and work—giving the world a global community of “Nooksters.” The bonus is the fact that you can rent it out when you aren’t using it, providing people with an additional income stream in a similar way to Airbnb.
Human Resources in the Future
As much as the landscape of the traditional office is evolving, so are massive changes happening within the labor force to keep economies flourishing. As the workforce is reshaping to adapt to either remote working or a hybrid variation, more and more employees will be looking for guidance on how to navigate this brave new world.
The initials HR may not merely stand for human resources but could be for “Head of Remote.”
Numerous new roles will be created: HR Data Detective (to synthesize data streams), a Director of Wellbeing (to look after the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of employees), and a VR Immersion Counselor (to instigate the use of virtual reality for coaching, upskilling, reskilling, and possibly medical and safety training).
It’s becoming a brave new world of possibilities.
Work will shift to be “results” focused instead of “hours” focused
In this new frontier of automation, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, staid and rigid organizations won’t survive. Quick thinking and agile companies will allow for flexible smart working, a work-life balance and job satisfaction to engage employees.
Embracing this new way of work will undoubtedly include a shift of focus from “hours worked” to a “result-driven” outcome.
There’s no longer any need to be tied to a desk from dawn to dusk when a virtual desk allows for work any time of the day or night. The measurement of a valuable employee will focus on the output, giving individual autonomy to the employee; rather than a command and control management approach. The leadership role for team players will become one of trust and empowerment.
Organizations will shift their focus from the traditional method of having in-house employees to getting work done on a contract basis.
Employers can use the Internet to source workers as they require work to be done. While workers themselves, are shifting to freelancing work, as it gives them control over how much work they do and when they do it. Consider the growth in freelancing websites such as Upwork, Fiverr, Workhoppers, PeoplePerHour and Hubstaff Talent, to name a few.
Today’s world of flexible networks allows a global village approach to outsourcing work, where workers, as much as organizations, are result-driven for payment.
Managing employee workloads need sustainable boundaries to be put in place by effective management. There’s a definitive line between effective remote management and micromanaging that will drive your employees insane — if left unchecked.
Workplaces will need to reflect more compassion and have greater empathy for its employees.
Clear principles to reinvigorate creative passion and to negate feelings of uncertainty need to be instigated. Touted as being “humanocracy,” businesses that succeed will be intensely human. Leadership on every level will focus on being connected to their employee, especially when dealing with remote workers and hybrid working situations.
Managers and team leaders will have to: adapt their skills (or upgrade their skillset) to be active listeners, have a digital mindset, be adept at negotiation and problem solving, and quick off the mark to facilitate change where needed.
One such area where real conversations need to happen is to prevent junior managers from sabotaging new members of a team that may have only just graduated.
The first few years of a graduate’s career is when they need the most help and structure in their work. It shouldn’t be in the hands of junior managers who don’t have the necessary skills mentioned above.
Competition for the most qualified candidates increases
Organizations will no longer have a captive audience to choose the best apple from, as remote work breaks down location barriers. The world is truly within reach from the point of view of both employer and employee.
A prime indicator is the LinkedIn job market space. It has seen a 60% increase, since the onslaught of Covid, of users, punching in the filtering word “remote.” A virtual world reduces barriers for workers to connect and to build their own networks on a global scale.
Businesses won’t be able to rely on wooing a prospective employee with drinks at the local bar.
The determining factor will be how employers treat their employees. The most significant advantage for employers will be that they can find a particular skillset somewhere in the world that may be in short supply in their own location.
The downside will be the global competition for that specific shining star’s talent. The best brains will end up with organizations that are agile, fast-moving and innovative.
Burnout will become a significant attrition risk – unless businesses act fast
Mental health issues are rising from burnout, or what’s referred to as “pandemic fatigue.” “I’m lonely, tired, anxious” are the words being uttered by many around the world. The number of people suffering symptoms is more than three times higher than before the crisis.
Numerous issues can be blamed: lack of personal space, having their workspace (the kitchen bench) in view all of the time, the isolation of working remotely, and working long hours as they attempt to juggle home responsibilities with work issues, let alone financial dramas.
While many people have been putting on a brave face since the pandemic began, the lingering effects will have disastrous consequences in a post-covid world.
Stressed-out employees are pessimistic, inclined to take days off work, have diminished motivation, an air of lethargy and underperform. In some cases, it will lead to employees looking for new employment in the belief that it will renew their enthusiasm.
Businesses will have to put on their creative hats to avoid losing valuable team players. Organizations need to offer mental health advice on issues such as work/life boundaries, using holiday allowances, and education classes on effective stress management (sans alcohol).
Freelance work will increase
Covid has seen the rise of freelancing work right across the globe. More companies are inclined to hire freelancers, and more workers are seeking employment as freelancers.
Freelancing websites such as Fiverr have seen registrations rise about 48% during the pandemic. Some employees are taking advantage of the fact that no one is looking over their shoulder and hustling for side-gigs to increase their earnings (because employers, citing COVID as the reason, decreased their pay).
At the same time, companies are not in a position to take the stance of owning their staff or banning employees from freelancing. Their non-working hours are their own free time. If employers wish to keep their staff focused and to retain their talent, fair compensation and flexible working conditions will become a priority.
From an employer’s point of view, companies will be able to source contract workers with top skills who may not have been interested in doing piecemeal work before the pandemic. The phrase “working from home” may become “working from anywhere.”
No one will care whether you work in your pajamas or trackies, whether you are 30 or 60. It will only be your output—speed, knowledge and expertise to produce the work—that will count.
Networking communities will become more popular and important
Once a hangout for gossiping office workers, the water-cooler in the office will be redundant as the primary source of social interaction. Remote workers or hybrid employees will take to the Internet for meetups, chats, and networking opportunities, or get-togethers with other local inspirational personalities at the cafe around the corner from their home.
Savvy companies will create their own internal chat opportunities with informal Slack channels that can engage people’s interests, whether it’s podcasts, channels for foodies or “how-to” advice channels.
LinkedIn began in 2002 and has grown into the world’s largest professional network, with over 610 million users in around 200 countries.
Other social sites include: Meetup.com that brings like-minded people together on a regional basis. At the same time, Opportunity.com connects professionals based on what you need. Jobcase.com allows you not just to find jobs, but to connect with community groups for chat sessions. Gust.com has a startup community network enabling entrepreneurs to connect with investors and angel investor networks. The growing digital nomad movement over the last years has seen international micro-communities form centered around industry affiliations of entrepreneurs, single women, and SEO professionals on numerous social websites.
Remote work won’t disappear once the pandemic is over. There’s no going back as some workers love not having to commute to an office daily.
Employers have realized that there can still be a company culture outside of the four walls of physical office space. Most likely, it will be a hybrid working world for many — days at home and days in an office — with lots of flexibility within a dedicated framework.
Office spaces will get revamped to suit a fluctuating number of employees at any one time, more in tune with its mobile workforce. Shared workspaces will be more focused on collaboration opportunities and meetings.
Okay, so I’m prejudiced — I see a Nooka space is the most viable solution for working from home — you will have the convenience of a home office with the amenities of a great office space—right at your backdoor. No commuting on public transport, no public foyers or lifts of wafting germs, and no air-conditioning that regurgitates stale air.
It’s your comfy space to work, to connect with coworkers, and to have your own happy-hour with the neighbors at the end of the day; if you want to be sociable. Nooka spaces are the future of remote and hybrid working, and one of the many changes that will happen in 2021.
Image Credit: blue bird; pexels
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!