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Employee Scheduling Trends that Deserve to Continue Even After the Pandemic

trends to continue after pandemic

It’s been a long time since you could assume that the majority of your team is at it from 9 to 5. The “global village� means that work doesn’t end when the sun sets or markets close in your time zone, and the rise of flexible working patterns made it even more complex to coordinate employee schedules.

The best employee scheduling strategies consider employee preferences as well as employer needs and consumer demands, but the enormous number of moving parts – operational needs, budget, regulations and compliance – can make it all very difficult to manage.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation in many industries. Employees who are high risk may be unable to work, or can only take shifts with little contact with the public or when only a skeleton staff is present. Workers grappling with unpredictable childcare needs and unreliable transport can cause even more last-minute changes than usual.

Scheduling conflicts can cause bad feeling in a company, but it doesn’t have to be that way. New advances in tech and better communication between employees and managers help enterprises get employee scheduling right, which improves employee experience and in turn pushes up employee retention and satisfaction.

The exigencies of COVID-19 pushed new trends in employee scheduling, which may be worth continuing even when the pandemic fades into memory. Here are a few scheduling trends from 2020 that are worthy of sticking around.

Scheduling is becoming more flexible

Scheduling that is more flexible is also more complex, but flexibility is crucial for a happy, motivated workforce under pandemic conditions. Employees with more flexible scheduling arrangements report higher wellbeing, more engagement, and more effectiveness at work than those stuck in inflexible scheduling.

For example, mothers working remotely with flexible, efficient schedules that match their availability are three times more likely to have positive wellbeing than those with inflexible, inefficient scheduling.

Although employees may be coping, everyone has their own challenges. “In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys,� says Jonathan Emmett, associate partner at McKinsey. Even people who love their jobs need accommodation for whatever else is going on in their lives.

Self-scheduling software invites employees to choose their own shifts, make last-minute changes, book vacation days, and check their schedules independently and remotely. This helps employees to feel more in control, which is especially important during such unstable and uncertain times, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

AI is bringing intelligence to scheduling

AI is stepping into many more HR use cases. Now managers can use AI tools to predict changes in consumer demand, and plan ahead to meet altering workforce needs.

For example, surging customer numbers in the winter holiday shopping season can require more retail assistants; a sunny day could tempt more diners to a cafe in the park, needing the addition of more waiters; rolling out a new product version might prompt you to increase customer service agents to answer user questions, etc.

With AI and machine learning, HR teams can analyze employee strengths and weaknesses to understand which employees work best together. With these insights, you can construct the strongest possible on-schedule teams for every situation and place the right person on duty at the right time.

Employees expect remote and mobile scheduling

Managing employee scheduling manually, even with an Excel spreadsheet, has long been a joke, but today, employees and HR managers simply can’t live without remote and mobile access to cloud-based scheduling tools that sync automatically to allow use anywhere.

The COVID-19-driven shift to WFH only underlined the importance of cloud-based systems for scheduling. We live our lives on our phones, from ordering dinner to taking out a mortgage, so it’s understandable to assume that scheduling software would include a mobile app.

“You want to make it easy for your staff to access their schedules from anywhere. This isn’t possible with desktop software,� writes tech expert Neil Patel in his scheduling tool drill-down. Beyond mobile-friendliness, he continues, “The best tools will also have shift swapping, employee self-service tools, HR features, labor cost management, leave management, attendance tracking, team messaging, overtime control, time clocks, etc.�

In today’s dynamic work environments, HR needs the ability to respond to scheduling changes on the fly, ensuring that they don’t cause your entire month-long schedule to fall apart, and requesting that someone else to step in without breaking your own rules or creating a sense of injustice among your workforce.

Employers are upping the ante in communication

Employee scheduling flows more smoothly with excellent communication that increases trust relationships, creating a virtuous circle where efficient scheduling itself raises trust.

Employee trust is high at the moment, with “my employer� as the most trusted institution and 73% of workers agreeing they trust businesses to protect them by adapting scheduling and sick-leave policies as necessary. But you can’t take this for granted.

Employers need to keep up and even improve employee communications. “Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information,� says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Holdings. “For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community.�

Enterprises should continue communicating around scheduling, asking how employee needs may have changed (e.g. working parents may prefer a night shift now) and accommodating them as much as possible.

Encourage employees to share their concerns; create more channels for communication between employees and managers and among employees themselves; and open up the conversation around mental health and anxiety, to reinforce trust and improve your understanding of factors that may influence scheduling.

Not all scheduling changes prompted by COVID-19 should fade away

Employee scheduling has never been easy, and with more moving parts, increasing globalization, and the new stresses of COVID-19, it’s only gotten more complex. But necessity is the mother of invention, and so we’ve seen new tech and trends emerge of using AI for intelligent scheduling, supporting scheduling on the hoof, enabling flexible scheduling, and building communication into schedule planning.

Holding onto these new best practices after the crisis of coronavirus has passed can make companies stronger and more resilient in the long term.

Image Credit: depositphotos _19

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How Today’s Startups Can Adapt to a Globally Distributed Model

globally distributed model

The world of work is transforming. Although it’s tempting to blame it all on the coronavirus situation and its formidable ripples, the pandemic only accelerated the processes of globalization and digitization that have been underway for decades.

Among its many implications, the digital office means that jobs don’t necessarily need to be done in-person, and today’s startup leaders are realizing that many projects can be done at a lower cost remotely, without any drop in quality.

Still, COVID-19 helped tip the balance towards a globally distributed model.

Factors that are tipping the scales

Government restrictions and fears of infection pushed companies that had previously held out to accept remote working, and many discovered that it’s more manageable than they had expected. Managers realized that there’s little difference between employees working from home on the other side of town and employees working on the other side of the world.

What’s more, outsourcing projects and ongoing operations to offshore teams on a contract basis is a more flexible model that’s easy to scale. A flexible model is especially helpful for startups that can’t always predict what talent they will need when, and have low budgets that force them to hire for project work instead of filling in-house positions.

Given the economic fallout from COVID-19, more and more companies are falling into this category, with an estimated 41% of startups nearing the end of their funding runways, according to Startup Genome.

And finally, running subsidiaries and offices in numerous countries push business owners into overcoming mental barriers to global expansion.

A globally distributed business model allows you to hire the best talent wherever in the world it is. For example, the best R&D teams for your needs might be based in the Ukraine, whereas the best designers may be in Germany.

Transitioning to and managing a globally distributed model isn’t plain sailing. Obstacles to success include enabling collaboration and communication between geographically and culturally distant teams, handling multiple HR and tax requirements, and managing multi-faceted operations around time zone differences.

As with everything in startups, making this change is easier when you plan ahead, but companies that had globally distributed working forced upon them by COVID-19 can still make life easier by following these suggestions.

Automate as much as possible

When you’re running a globally distributed business, you have to adhere to multiple regulations. Each country has different requirements for healthcare and social services contributions, tax obligations, and classifications for types of companies and their obligations to others. Some of these differences are dramatic, while others are nuanced.

For example, you may think you’re hiring a freelance outsourced team that doesn’t receive health benefits, but in your new worker’s home country, she may be considered a contracted employee, with all the rights that go along with that relationship.

In these complex situations, the more you can automate, the better. “Moving to remote work is more than simply changing from an office environment to a distributed workforce,� Papaya Global’s Alex Margolin reminds us. “In the long run, taking advantage of the opportunity remote work offers means building a global vision. This starts with implementing automated tools that will allow your company to grow.�

Automation also helps overcome the dreaded impact of time zones on scheduling. Automated scheduling platforms and smart shared calendars convert meeting times into local time for each participant – and help you check the time in different time zones before you accidentally schedule a meeting for 3am in India.

Create a cohesive team

Whether you’re hiring workers for a short project, setting up a long-term outsourced team, establishing an international partnership, or connecting with a third-party vendor or supplier, it’s vital to support effective communication and collaboration. The various branches of your business can have different work practices and cultural assumptions that can lead to clashes unless you facilitate a smooth working relationship and personal interaction.

As IBM CIO Fletcher Previn puts it, “Some of the biggest challenges for employees revolved around simple human-to-human interaction. When you’re working in an office, it’s easy to have impromptu interactions with colleagues and build friendships.â€�

You need to help everyone connected with your company to feel part of a global team instead of a group of collaborating clusters and individuals. People crave a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves – this depth of cross-functional engagement boosts satisfaction, decreases churn, and increases productivity across the organization.

Previn’s recommendations are to “Define clear guidance, rules, and policies. Train employees on remote etiquette and provide tools for teams to collaborate and contribute.” And no, email is not enough; you’ll need many communication and collaboration channels, including messaging apps and video-conferencing platforms.

Establish policies that promote connection, like a virtual happy hour or fun conversations. Celebrating every holiday in every culture and country where any of your workers are located can also strengthen the sense of being part of a diverse, global team.

Open up access to information

When business lines stretch across countries, time zones, and continents, data can easily get lost along the way.

Remote workers, outsourced teams, distanced managers, suppliers, and more can all struggle to access the information they need at the right time. Time differences can leave knowledge workers waiting 24 hours or more just to get access to one file.

Data is the lifeblood of every business, so it’s vital to set up practices and platforms that enable everyone to get timely responses to questions, find documents, and more. Embed data and analytics in a way that allows all employees, workers and partners to access them and draw actionable insights, without compromising on security, and data protection compliance.

Support agile working practices

Succeeding with a globally distributed business means decentralizing the hierarchy into a flatter organization.

The fast-paced business world favors small, nimble teams that support agile decision-making. C-suite executives must devolve responsibility onto team managers and experts on the ground, giving them the authority to take the initiative and make decisions – otherwise, your global business will be stifled by bottlenecks.

This intersects with the need for good communication to build trust relationships and remove the urge to micromanage. In the words of Owen McGab Enaohwo, CEO and co-founder of SweetProcess, “Micromanagement derails active and ready-to-work employees — ensure that you maintain a certain level of trust, and you randomly check in on your team from time to time. This will help them perform efficiently and productively.�

Delegating authority to your distributed workers makes them more productive and happier. Slack found that 86% of people who enjoy working remotely say that they have a great deal of autonomy at work, while 77% of people who don’t like remote working say they lack autonomy.

A globally distributed model is attainable

Invest in advanced tech to automate awkward processes and improve communication and trust; support free access to the necessary data; and give all participants in a globally distributed business the responsibility they need to do their jobs effectively.

Globally distributed companies are the future for business, but they require the right mindset.

Image Credit: ketut subiyant; pexels

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Bitcoin Emerges as New Standard in Post-COVID Economy?

bitcoing in post covid economy

Bitcoin has always had the potential to become a world standard for money. Even if the blockchain that powers Bitcoin lacks the bandwidth to handle the required transaction volume, and even if the world wasn’t ready 11 years ago for non-governmental e-money to go mainstream, the potential was always there.

Indeed, Bitcoin enthusiasts and developers have long insisted the day will come when Bitcoin will stand alongside gold. Back in 2018, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, emphasized that Bitcoin would become the world’s single currency.

What the visionary, Milton Friedman, predicted about Bitcoin in 1999.

Even before Bitcoin became a reality, visionaries like Milton Friedman were predicting the rise of an internet-version of cash, as long ago as 1999. “The internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government,� he said at the time. “The one thing that’s missing but will soon be developed is a reliable e-cash, a method where you can transfer funds on the internet without A knowing B or B knowing A.�

The statements of Milton Friedman are precisely why finance commentators like Vice News producer and The Wisdom of Crowds author James Surowiecki have been so skeptical about Bitcoin going mainstream. “Our economies and financial systems are built around fiat money, and they rely on the central bank’s control of the currency (and the government’s ability to issue debt in that currency) to help manage the business cycle, fight unemployment, and deal with financial crises,� Surowiecki wrote in spring 2018 when Bitcoin hype was peaking.

Can Bitcoin be the dominant economic currency?

“An economy in which Bitcoin was the dominant currency would be a more volatile and harsher economy, in which the government would have limited tools to fight recessions and where financial panics, once started,� he continued, “would be hard to stop.�

Yet, two years later, the signs are positive that the significant disruption of the novel coronavirus could do what nothing else has done so far: give Bitcoin the extra push to become accepted as a reserve currency.

The macroeconomic moment we’re currently in represents a serious opportunity for Bitcoin use cases. Let’s take a look at a few key reasons why.

Corona is leveling the playing field

Set against long-lived currencies like the dollar and the pound sterling, Bitcoin seems new and untested. But venerable fiat currencies are crumbling.

Currency collapse, of course, is nothing new – this all has happened before. As recently as 2017, when the Bolivar collapsed, many Venezuelans went on to adopt cryptocurrency for their transactions. Before that, the Zimbabwean dollar and Argentine peso saw hyperinflation that prevented them from serving as valid currencies. The Icelandic krona suffered a similar fate after that country’s financial collapse in 2008.

In hindsight, 1971, when the gold standard was finally abandoned, was the beginning of the end for fiat currencies. For decades, central banks have reacted to economic threats by printing money and lowering interest rates, slowly creating a massive debt bubble that eventually caused the 2008-9 crisis.

Despite warnings, their strategy hasn’t changed, leaving fiat currencies over-inflated and ready to pop.

The coronavirus crisis brought a substantial economic shock that these currencies can’t withstand.

We are seeing sudden slashes to both supply and demand and cuts to international trade that has brought the global economy almost to a standstill. In response, the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank (ECB) all increased their quantitative easing plans and brought interest rates down even further to 0% (or below, in the case of ECB and Japan).

In the absence of the gold standard, it’s unclear what fiat currencies have reduced value against.

We can even argue that they reduced value against Bitcoin since it reflects the true market value of currency at any given time. Some hardcore proponents, including the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, claim that it’s the only true hard money.

While that insight into the issue is hardly accepted universally, Bitcoin is increasingly seen as “harder� than fiat currencies which are manipulated by central banks.

Indeed, if Bitcoin’s resistance to central bankers’ manipulations is what once made it seem impractical, today, that stand seems like much more of a feature than a bug.

With fiat currencies in disarray and central banks on the back foot, we’re likely to see either a return to old financial ideas perceived as safe and stable, such as the gold standard, or the acceptance of radically new ones like Bitcoin which no longer appear unattractive.

When the internet rules, e-cash is king

Up till now, the decentralized nature of Bitcoin was one of its disadvantages. It was seen as chaotic, disorganized, and unreliable with no one officially “in charge.â€� The current period shows the manipulation of interest rates and quantitative easing measures — together with the effects of the coronavirus. All of these produce a prolonged period of artificial deflation, or worse, stagflation, decentralization could become an asset rather than a drawback.

Friedman, whom I quoted above, presciently linked the rise of e-cash with the central role of the internet in governing our lives. Once the internet rules, his argument goes, we will trust the currency which it manages.

It’s similar to the slow rise of email, which existed as a medium for communication since 1971 but wasn’t widely adopted until the mid-1990s. Suddenly, trust rapidly increased until it became ubiquitous.

Bitcoin occupies a similar space. It’s an internet-based tool that’s been awaiting its time. You could say that 2009-2020 were Bitcoin’s shadow years, just as 1970-1990 was that era for email. And we’re already seeing the tide start to turn.

The critical role that Bitcoin plays.

We can see this from the increasingly important role that Bitcoin plays, not just as a currency, but as a trustworthy agent in online interactions. The concept has been building and maturing slowly. And, UX has improved with time.

As digital currency spreads and becomes more stable, it’s turned into the foundation for dapps. RSK, for example, uses Bitcoin as the foundation for a smart contract platform, easing people’s ability to use it for transactions. RSK is the first open-source smart contract solution to have been built on Bitcoin’s network, and the platform has also rolled out powerful interoperability capabilities.

Bitcoin’s benefits to Ethereum.

“We believe being able to offer Bitcoin’s benefits to Ethereum users and to connect these respective developer communities is a crucial step for the blockchain ecosystem as a whole,� RSK Strategist Adrian Eidelman told the press in February.

Another example is the recent acquisition of the popular Taringa! Social network by IOV Labs, the company behind RSK. There are ambitious plans on the table to introduce Bitcoin transaction capabilities, to decentralize social media data storage, and to reduce the monopoly of global internet corporations such as Facebook.

The decentralizing move has a lot in common with Dorsey’s recent statements about his goal to decentralize Twitter’s tech infrastructure over the years ahead, through a project codenamed Bluesky.

At the same time, Atomic Loans is investing in building a decentralized finance marketplace for Bitcoin DeFi-backed loans. Such advances are fast bringing Bitcoin to be a versatile, widely-accepted currency.

Success breeds success

Bitcoin is standing on the threshold of widespread adoption as a reserve currency, and its diversifying use cases attest to this.

The currency is increasingly used for P2P lending and has improved cross-border trade as it removed the need to go through exchange middlemen. Dorsey is among the recent investors in Lightning Labs’s project to build a new protocol layer to speed up and lower the cost of Bitcoin transactions, while his Square Cash App is rolling out payments in Bitcoin, and Money on Chain is building a DeFi platform to serve as the foundations of a DeFi ecosystem for direct financial interactions.

We’re looking the future hard in the eye.

These and other important steps are establishing Bitcoin as a viable, stable means for payment. We anticipate that it will soon be adopted by central banks as a reserve hard currency, alongside their existing fiat currencies and gold stocks. In the short term, governments may even create their own Bitcoin to maintain control over the currency, but Bitcoin relies on decentralization, and in the long term, it will continue to evade governmental control.

A new bitcoin utopia could be on the way.

We still haven’t reached Bitcoin nirvana, but the signs are promising for long-term Bitcoin believers. Fiat currencies have long been losing their appeal, after decades of overprinting money and dragging down interest rates. As they crumble, Bitcoin’s star rises.

The corona-triggered recession is merely the pin that popped the fiat currency bubble.

Simultaneously, the more projects and platforms built on the back of Bitcoin DeFi, the more trust in and familiarity with the currency increases, setting it up for adoption as a reserve currency in 2021 and beyond.

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