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Long-COVID Risk Impact on The Future of Work

Two years of the global COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to operate remotely -- with the majority of knowledge worker employees working from home. While the virus evolved into new variants, some business leaders were already contemplating a 'return to office' scenario.

Clearly, some leaders struggle to understand what their employees want, and how to support them to do their jobs in the most safe, productive, and satisfying way. However, the predictable significant increase in employee resignations should help them to reconsider.

Future of Work Solutions Market Development

IDC recently published results from a survey of the Asia-Pacific (APEJ) region, which provides insights for companies to understand their workforce and how to accommodate them to ensure the best productivity and business continuity.

"Great Resignation is the latest buzzword. As employees reassess their current employment, talent retention is a top business agenda item for organizations," said Deepan Pathy, senior research manager at IDC.

To successfully compete and thrive in the labor market and retain the best talent, leaders need to deliver an enhanced employee experience -- one that focuses on providing flexibility, well-being, and safety of employees. That is the key to building a more empowered and motivated workforce.

Employment flexibility and sustained productivity continue to be the strongest employee sentiment in the Asia-Pacific region. 

IDC research reveals that 56 percent of the employees in the region want flexible work with options to work both in the office and remotely, even beyond the end of this pandemic (whenever that occurs).

Furthermore, IDC data shows that more than 70 percent of the employees said their productivity was higher or at least at the same level compared to pre-pandemic. Avoiding the commute to an office has been a great enabler.

Despite sustained productivity, while working remotely, IDC’s latest survey reveals that Asia-Pacific employees felt they needed to overcome various technological challenges around access, tools, apps, data, and networks.

The top five technologies that employees believe will support their productivity include moving data and applications to the public cloud, collaboration tools, connectivity or broadband solutions, 5G wireless connectivity, and on-demand remote IT support.

According to the IDC assessment, health and safety are among the top concerns for Asia-Pacific employees when considering a 'return to office' request, even as most companies are mandating employee vaccination (there are some exceptions granted, which create uncertainty and fear).

So, a vaccination mandate alone is not enough for a safe office environment -- companies need to rethink their office spaces to ensure they meet all employee needs for ongoing personal safety.

Outlook for Future of Work Apps in Asia-Pacific

Smart office technologies such as temperature sensing, upgraded ventilation, contactless sensors, touchless fixtures, robotic cleaning, and smart meeting room management are examples that can help. However, there's no guarantee that all employees will comply and follow the new safety standards.

That said, the troubling rise of long-COVID -- or post-COVID -- is a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people may experience that now has healthcare policymakers concerned. Furthermore, the employer liability risk is unclear if employees become infected while mandated to return to an open office environment.

Beyond the legal ramifications, there are moral issues associated with forcing employees to enter an office and work in close proximity to others who could be asymptomatic carriers of a new COVID variant. Clearly, the decision to 'require' employees to work in an office setting is highly controversial.

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