As we continue to see encouraging declines in COVID-19 cases according to CDC and WHO stats, many companies are actively pursuing the possibility of employees returning to the office and getting back to work in the new normal. According to the Deloitte Return to Work Survey, approximately 64% of organizations intend to pursue a return to work (Deloitte, Return to Work Survey 2021). But this choice carries an inherent risk for companies.
Over the past two years, employees have largely adapted to working from home. While some demographics are more inclined to return to the office (e.g., entry-level employees and employees with younger dependents), approximately 70% indicate that their experiences working remotely have been better and more productive than they expected.
In addition, after two years of avoiding close contact and adapting social behaviors, the prospect of working in a crowded office feels inherently risky to many people. The net result is that while 75% of executives want to return to the office at least three times a week, only 34% of employees feel the same (Future Forum Pulse, conducted July 28 to August 10, 2021).
Taking the right steps to return to work in the new normal
There is significant pressure to get this right. Plans to open offices align far more closely with the executive viewpoint than the employees. This disparity occurs during a period when employee mobility is at all-time high, and the company operating environment is highly fluid.
Regional and national regulations have shifted multiple times over the past quarter. There has been a wide-ranging approach to mask mandates, vaccine reporting requirements, and public gathering guidelines. OSHA and CDC guidance has also shifted the amount of time that infected individuals need to isolate, proper protocols in the instance of potential exposure, etc. Flexibility is key to driving successful COVID-related business processes.
In the context of this rapidly shifting environment, with complicated work preferences, and strong opinions on vaccination, reporting, and other factors, companies need to embrace “permanent flexibility” to thrive. And companies are beginning to implement policies and processes that address these dynamics.
They are increasingly introducing measures that address mask-wearing, social distancing, enhanced health and safety protocols, daily health certifications, and proof of COVID testing and pro-vaccination (Deloitte Return to Work Survey, 2021). They are also introducing processes such as automated ordering, desk reservation, daily certification, and vaccination recording to support these nascent efforts.
But if flexibility is key, is your current approach to process automation enabling or impeding your success? While 80% of companies have undertaken some sort of digital transformation project (Unlocking Success in Digital Transformation, McKinsey, October 2018), the approach to automating these processes is still largely manual, relying on a scarce group of expensive coders to design, implement, and roll out each automated process. As a result, only 1 in 3 companies drives business process transformation at scale (The imperatives for automation success, McKinsey, August 2020).
Using automation to achieve permanent flexibility
Fundamentally, this manual approach impedes the implementation of permanent flexibility by slowing company responsiveness. Imagine, for instance, that local reporting guidelines shift. If it takes weeks to comply, your company will be forced to comb through data manually or risk local violations.
How does this manual approach reduce flexibility and drive costs?
- Discovery & mapping is hard – As a result, processes are siloed, difficult to document, and have little standardization
- Path to automation is restrictive – Reliant on scarce skills, heavy coding, and bespoke application development
- Time-to-value is slow – Cumbersome multi-month and year-long projects
- Scale and ROI are challenging – Costly consulting, heavily customized, rigid applications
The bottom line is that process automation can help organizations achieve permanent flexibility, which, in turn improves the employee experience and maximizes productivity. With process automation, we can shift away from a traditional approach, enabling:
- Easy discovery & mapping – collaboratively map, improve, and prioritize processes quickly
- Agile pathway to automation – low code, drag-and-drop, powerful, dozens of connectors
- Rapid time to value – implement in days to weeks, built for constant change
- Affordable approach – scalable, easy-to-update, low total cost of ownership
Nintex’s powerful, complete, and easy-to-use platform can help you accelerate your process automation journey. The Nintex platform helps our customers discover and map business processes with tools, process owners, and participants, design and automate these business processes with forms, workflow, and RPA capabilities, generate and sign documents, optimize automation performance and gain insight with process intelligence.
What are some of the ways that our customers are leveraging process automation to achieve permanent flexiblilty? To date, many have used it to introduce COVID opinion survey and tracking, vaccination validation, test result tracking, travel reporting, facilities access requests and monitoring, and incident communication.
So, in conclusion, the “return to work” appetite is higher among executives than employees, but companies are moving forward anyway. The ecosystem surrounding COVID-19 is complex and changing, companies need to address key processes to mitigate risk, complexity drives a need for permanent flexibility, and permanent flexibility is empowered with process automation.