The future of work is not about office v home or hybrid v remote.
It’s about what comes next and the irresistible advantages that brings that will cause a seismic shift in how individuals and organisations work.
Let’s take hybrid first. This is very much an interim step towards a remote-first model. What we see currently is an office-centric approach to remote working. It’s better than a solely office-centric model but it only allows access to some of the benefits that competitors that go fully remote-first will enjoy. Organisations will therefore have to move and close the gap.
Once organisations move to a remote-first model (which, please note, can include offices and third-space locations), then they can get the full benefits, including:
- Reduced Real Estate and associated operating costs
- Reduced carbon footprint from less commuting and business travel
- Better access to talent as they can recruit nationally and globally
- Better quality of life for employees, bringing;
– higher retention
– fewer sick days
– higher engagement
– being more attractive to recruits
– happier, more productive and effective employees
This is enough for some organisations to commit to remote-first now. However, many organisations are still unconvinced, resistant or even hostile to the idea.
What will change their minds? Well, the next steps that inevitably follow-on provide such huge benefits that they will either have to change or be out-competed. The advantages are simply irresistible.
Those inevitable next steps are asynchronous working and moving to networks of self-organising teams.
Work, already untethered from place, will be untethered from time and from hierarchal power structures and their associated bureaucracy. In short, employees will be set free.
‘What are these ‘irresistible advantages’, I hear you ask? Well, here’s a partial list.
- An effective approach to Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI). Organisations that aren’t remote-first do not have a serious policy on DEI, they are just pretending. These next steps put the impact of remote on steroids.
- A greater focus on teams, which is where the real work gets done and the culture is found, which will lead to greater responsiveness, agility and effectiveness.
- A huge reduction in bureaucracy, along with the massive savings that will bring.
- Assessing people on outcomes and contribution instead of outputs and hours worked, reducing wasteful performative behaviours.
- Greater resilience to external shocks, such as travel disruptions, extreme weather events, and resources shortages, which are becoming more frequent.
- Emphasis on written communication and capture of tacit and institutional knowledge, creating long-term knowledge assets, better organisational learning and fast and effective knowledge transfer.
- Better decision-making as a more diverse workforce provides greater diversity of thinking, and the close-coupling of sense-making, decision making and action-taking in the front-line teams
- Rapid innovation, as teams are able to rapidly iterate through experiments and act autonomously in response to the market.
These advantages will make organisations faster, and leaner, more adaptive, resilient, and innovative, more successful and profitable. They will be magnets for talent and resources.
The compound effect of these advantages will be huge and they will out-compete their, often much bigger, rivals.
Given how significant these advantages are, what’s stopped organisations embracing them already? Well, some have but most lack the leadership, imagination and courage. They are not currently capable of making the shift. If they don’t acquire that capability soon, then they face oblivion.
That’s what the future of work debate is really about. Is it a wonderful opportunity or an existential threat?
In my view, if you think it’s the latter, you are probably going to be proved right.
However. if you embrace the former, the future is, indeed, bright.