It’s no secret that the pandemic is changing the way many people work.
Over the past 10 months, the cubicle has given way to remote workplaces as more and more employees turn their homes into home offices.
According to a December report from the Pew Research Center, the number of people working from home has increased from 20% to more than 70% during the pandemic. About half of those teleworkers said they have more flexibility to choose when they put in their hours and a majority would like to continue working from home after the pandemic.
Many experts believe these changes are only the beginning of a larger shift in where, when and how people work.
“Pivots that people thought would take months or years are now taking weeks,” said John Boudreau, an author and expert in organizational growth and change.
The future of work and workspaces was one of the major topics covered at the Jan. 15 virtual Business Outlook Conference sponsored by the Ventura County Economic Development Association.
Boudreau, the conference’s keynote speaker, discussed how COVID-19 “melted” jobs by creating a fluid workplace with more remote work, automation and gig projects. The shift, he said, will allow workers to perform duties beyond their normal job expectations and use their own skills to support new projects.
“Work is going to be deconstructed,” said Boudreau, professor emeritus and senior research scientist at USC. “You’re not going to have a job structure, and you’re going to be coordinating workers across projects and with other leaders.”
Some workplaces, Boudreau said, are creating their own gig economies where employees can volunteer or apply for new projects. Disney, for example, hired one of its accountants to perform a voiceover for a movie trailer. The individual was selected after an internal search at the entertainment giant.
The pandemic is also creating opportunities for workers to more readily move between companies as freelancers or contract workers. Boudreau believes this trend will increase as small businesses, nonprofits and other organizations begin to select workers from an “ecosystem” of qualified talent.
“This is not without controversy and it’s not without its problems,” Boudreau said. “There are very major local regional and global social policies that need to be thought about in order to make this kind of ecosystem possible.”
Some of these ideas are already taking shape.
In Ventura County, for example, nonprofits have shared or borrowed employees to help manage tasks or new responsibilities during their response to COVID-19. On a larger scale, Kroger temporarily hired, or borrowed, furloughed employees from food distributor Sysco to help manage the grocery chain’s initial response to the pandemic.
Boudreau believes there will also be a growing interest in adopting new corporate policies that reexamine expectations and responsibilities among remote and on-site workers.
“There is deep thinking to be done by leaders in organizations . . . about what we really mean by ‘return to work’ or ‘work after COVID,’” he said. “It’s a time for organizations to think carefully about that and be more transparent about that with their workers and managers and give them tools to make great decisions.”
Vanessa Bechtel, VCCF
Economic Development Collaborative
"The County’s Service Excellence Program has been honored for its work in the development and implementation of a streamlined permitting process and the creation of a Permit Navigator position to support businesses and individuals going through the permitting process.
The Ventura County Economic Development Association presented its first “From Red Tape to Red Carpet Award” to the County Executive Office. Deputy Executive Officer Paul Stamper and Continuous Process Improvement Manager Rachel Linares accepted the award at the association’s 48th Annual Business Outlook Conference on October 5. VCEDA intends to present the award annually.
“It’s an honor to have VCEDA choose the County as the first recipient of this award, and Paul and Rachel are deserving of the recognition,” said Mike Powers, County Executive Officer. “They run our Service Excellence program for process improvement, which has led to $33 million in ongoing savings over the past 10 years.”
Linares, who has a doctorate in business administration, serves as the County’s newly designated Permit Navigator. The need for the position was identified during the community meetings held for the development of the County of Ventura Economic Vitality Strategic Plan. The Permit Navigator works countywide and across departments such as the Resource Management Agency, Public Works and the Fire Protection District to improve customer service, provide mediation and continuously improve permitting processes.
“VCEDA advocates for programs that stimulate business and support a vital economy,” said Sandy Smith, VCEDA Chair and a land use consultant for Sespe Consulting, Inc. “By streamlining the permit process and having someone to address problems, the County is making it easier for businesses to thrive here and for people to invest in their quality of life. VCEDA is serious about cutting red tape, and the County is doing it.”
The most recent example of an improvement to the permit process was the development of an expedited process for people who lost their homes to the Thomas Fire. The process is designed to speed up the reconstruction plan review and permitting process and to get an applicant through the plan check stage in just two weeks.
“Through the Service Excellence program, we’ve completed more than 1,100 improvements across our agencies and service areas,” said Powers. “As a result, we’ve shortened wait times, offered higher quality services and more online access to services, and extended hours of service. We’re reducing overhead costs and that translates into freezing or minimizing fee increases, freeing up resources to further enhance our programs and services.”
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