“Are we there yet?”
Perhaps we’re all being annoying children when it comes to the future of work.
All parents will be familiar with this phrase, normally uttered after you’ve just started a long journey and repeated regularly until boredom and disillusionment set in.
It’s also the question being asked about the future of work. And the answer is the same, a resounding “No!”. I hope we don’t also get bored and disillusioned about the future of work because it has so much to offer us.
The question stems from our desire for quick answers and a return to the certainty and stability that we had before COVID tipped everything up on end. The reality is that we don’t know where we’re going with the future of work, it’s messy, unpredictable, uncertain and ambiguous. And we hate that, so we want to get ‘there’ as soon as possible.
The thing is, we don’t know where ‘there’ is. Anyone who says they do is either a fool or a liar, or possibly both (and that includes me!). It seems highly likely that ‘there’ will be different for each organisation, even for each person. There will be a great diversity of ‘there’s.
In the recent “Inspired People, Inspired Places” event on ‘Life after hybrid…’ (link in comments), I was struck by Darren Murph’s statement that this is a multi-year transition and we’ve only just started. We need to be patient, it’s going to take time and it’s way too early to know where we’ll end up.
HIs advice was to begin by stop doing thing that are wrong, like transferring office routines into a virtual environment, consigning employees to endless zoom calls and the associated fatigue. It’s not a simple ‘cut-and-paste’ exercise, that’s just going to make things worse.
However, figuring out what is right is going to take much longer and involve a lot of experimentation and exploration. That means encountering failure and going down a few blind alleys, and we don’t like doing that. So we bleat “Are we there yet?”, and hope for the simple solution.
As H L Mencken said “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
Let’s all grow up a bit and accept we’re at the start of a long path with an unknown destination. The future of work is just the future we are moving towards, it will emerge as we progress forwards. It’s going to be messy, just like life is messy. In fact, the future of work is about the future of life, and that’s good because that’s where the big opportunity for change is.
The best question to ask is “What’s the best next step?”. Then take it and see where it leads.
And stop whining from the back seat!