ComplianceMarch 24, 2021

5 Ways in Which the Future Workplace Will Be Different

The National Safety Council convened its second Work to Zero Summit in February to bring together EHS, research, and technology solution leaders to discuss how emerging technology can mitigate workplace hazards and eliminate serious injuries and fatalities.

One of the panel sessions discussed what the future workplace will look like with new technology and as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Comprising the panel were Jackie Black (Director of Strategic Alliances, US Jobs, CTA), Michelle Kaplan (CEO, Burst & Fleurish), and John Dony (Senior Director, Thought Leadership, National Safety Council).

1) Remote Work to Continue

To begin, the panel described where and how they think people will work in 5-10 years. In short, remote work will continue for those in jobs that can be done remotely. These workers may still come to the office about 20-25% of the time, primarily for brainstorming or team-building activities. This hybrid situation doesn’t necessarily require new or different technology, but does require we actually use our existing technology to its full potential. Moving forward, we need to give more intentionality to remote work and regularly touch base with remote workers, purposefully recreating those “water cooler moments” to connect with coworkers through technology.

2) New Safety Challenges for EHS Professionals

The panel emphasized that fundamentally, the job of an EHS professional is not to occupy buildings, but to keep people safe. The hybrid office/remote work situation has resulted in some new safety challenges. Companies should consider implementing hybrid risk assessments for ergonomics, and slips, trips and fall hazards for remote employees. When people return to the work environment, they may need to be retrained in hazard recognition. Because the boundaries of work have expanded and changed so much, companies may need to set up different policies to define what constitutes remote work.

3) Supervisors to Focus More on Employee Growth

Addressing the topic of productivity while working remotely, the panel acknowledged more research needs to be done, yet the consensus is people are just as productive working from home as they are working on site. For one thing, less time commuting can mean more time working, which removes a potential source of stress from a worker’s day. A potential issue is remote workers know they are getting their work accomplished, yet they are concerned about their capability to learn and grow in their careers. Supervisors of remote workers need to keep their teams high performing by checking in and focusing on their employees’ growth and development.

4) More Robots and Proximity Sensors

The panel also discussed the future of work for people who don’t work in an office setting. Those in retail or manufacturing facilities can expect to work alongside robots or be outfitted with proximity sensors to avoid collisions. Technology to improve communication and keep workers connected will become more prevalent so workers can alert each other to any impending hazards. For workers who must be on site, the focus will be on developing plans to remove people from the highest risk situations without eliminating their jobs or livelihood.

5) A Need for More Data Analysis Skills...and Soft Skills

To prepare for this future world of work, the panel emphasized the need for more skilled employees in data analytics and product management to use EHS technologies and applications, and understand the data produced from them. Beyond these technical skills, employers should also look for candidates with relevant soft skills like critical thinking and attention to detail who can gather insight from data analysis and prepare organizations in rolling out new technology.

Learn more about Enablon’s solutions for EHSQ & Sustainability and request a demo today!

Joy Inouye
Content Marketing Writer at Wolters Kluwer Enablon
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