It has been more than a year since enterprises across the country transitioned their workforces to be remote. At this point, employees have adjusted themselves to the New Normal which demands working from home. However, as restrictions ease and offices prepare to welcome employees in phases, it becomes a challenge for the latter to head back to their physical workspaces.
Not only do employees need to re-adjust themselves to work in a brick-and-mortar setting but the management also has a lot of protocols to follow compared to life pre-COVID-19. Whether it is addressing health and safety measures or rebuilding employee confidence and engagement, the question of when and how to bring employees back to the office is top-of-mind for business leaders.
As Francois Ajenstat, the Chief Product Officer at Tableau Software says,
"Now, every business is thinking, how do we reopen safely considering that different offices will have different parameters, different states have different laws, and then we need to figure out how do we grow in this next normal."
The short answer for every employer’s big problems is “Data”. 2020 made us appreciate the existence of technology and 2021 will ensure we do the same for analytics. Be it decisions organizations need to make to bring their employees back to work, ensuring increased and sustained productivity or merely managing a sanitised workspace, analytics plays a paramount role in the process of managing in-person workplace change.
Data has never been more powerful and practical any time in history than it is now. Simply by being aware about what data is available and how it can help align emerging and effective practices is key to an informed Return-To-Office (RTO) strategy with data and analytics. Dave Menninger, the Research Director of data and analytics research at Ventana Research encapsulates this well by saying, "You and I don't know what data will say. The data might say we should be accelerating our RTO. It might say we should be slowing our RTO. But to make those decisions without data is foolish.”
Ideating a Return-to-Office strategy with data and analytics
In the Return-To-Office venture, a data-driven approach plays an overarching role in three broad areas -
1. Safety Metrics
To start with, an RTW plan can only be initiated should the COVID-19 situation be at a controlled rate within the organisation’s geography. The statistics of active cases is the sole source of information that business leaders rely on before embarking on this endeavour. The rise and fall in case metrics guides leaders in implementing their RTO undertaking keeping in mind all the necessary precautions.
This critical real-time ‘COVID-19 metrics’ helps professionals focus on the effectiveness of their RTO plan. Additionally, being transparent and communicative with employees on how this data is driving organizational decisions can help build trust and confidence in employees, thus assuring them that the RTO plans are grounded in science and data.
Automation seeks to monitor internal data along with external analytics. Internal data guarantees implementation and measures the effectiveness of the RTO plan. In other words, analytics provides insights into hygiene standards in office spaces. New-age cleaning robots like the Whiz Robot provide actionable metrics, thus ensuring capacity provisions, ensuring efficient space utilisation and providing customers and employees with a visible proof of cleanliness.
2. Employee Metrics
The technical infrastructure of automation permits businesses to unlock their fullest potential starting with HR data. As always, this is the most valuable insight-provider since it enlightens the management into what can be the most expensive business expenditure - human capital.
Human Resources leaders turn to people analytics tools since features like KPIs give them a glimpse of any change in employee productivity levels after the shift back to office. Similarly, HR softwares which are storehouses of demographic data on employees provide a holistic overview on the risk factor for each individual worker. This guides leaders in taking more precautions when interacting with the vulnerable population.
Analytics in the form of pulse surveys, employee engagement statistics, productivity metrics and sentiment tracking are critical to keeping the workforce motivated and involved. peopleHum is an ideal example of such a tool which measures employee contribution, recognition and participation with a focus on collaboration and communication in the corporate circle.
Employee-centric data in the RTO package can also analyse employee experience during remote work. In other words, employee coaching tools give managers and employees feedback on how their communication or management styles have changed as a result of remote work and how they need to re-skill themselves to work harmoniously in offices again. These analytics show managers how responsive they've been to certain employees in the work-from-home setting, how much time they've spent with certain workers and how included they’ve made workers feel.
3. Business Metrics
Most importantly, business metrics makes it possible for organizations to create formal transition plans for RTO that are unique to each employee or department. Since everyone’s individual needs and work arrangements are bound to be different, analytics helps companies adapt in a seamless fashion to changes. Data is indeed the game-changer, since it fosters a workplace centred on strategic thinking and planning.
Crafting a sustainable business policy and budget becomes plausible thanks to the data input. This role of analytics ensures smooth functioning and provides a conducive work environment for learning and development. In many businesses globally, analytics helps identify employees who would be best suitable for leadership and entrepreneurship roles in a pursuit of succession planning.
At this moment, there is no certainty about the future whatsoever. COVID-19 had a beginning, we are in the middle, and we do not know exactly when it will end. All we do know is that whenever and however we go back to our workplaces, it will not be the same as it was before. But we can guarantee the fact that whether it's figuring out how to keep workers safe, making decisions on employee performance, or charting out future business prospects, businesses will solely credit their resilience techniques to analytics in the future which makes it possible to collect, blend and examine data trends in the "what if" scenario planning, thus making businesses ready to weather any storm!