As countries kick off “phase 2”, implementing measures to ease the lockdown and bringing us back to normal, discussions are happening around what normal might look like for the Future of Work.
We touched briefly on this in a previous issue of our newsletter – is remote the “new normal?”
I can’t see (yet) the day in which we will all be back to the office (if ever), but there are a few observations to be made. Key components of the future working model include building relationships, mental and physical wellbeing, productivity, and flexibility – employers will have to step up their game to shape up new and sustainable working environments.
"My guess is we'll have more demand for office space, not less, because people will want social distancing." Eric Schmidt
In the news we see corporations like Twitter stating that their employees can work from home forever vs top executives like Eric Schmidt predicting that we’ll need more office space after the pandemic. What’s going on here? And what’s best for the employees?
We always need to keep in mind that these are unusual circumstances. Opinions formed today around what tomorrow holds, are a little distorted. The idea that working from home is giving us more personal time back (e.g. no commute), while boosting productivity (e.g. less distractions and more deep work), needs to be better contextualised. While I agree that both employees and employers could benefit from a working from home model, I’m still unsure that’s the best option for the majority of us. Working from home and a well though-through remote model are different things.
Looking at the communities I’m part of and at how the day to day of people close to me evolved over the past months, it doesn’t look like people got that much personal time back or are having a positive life changing experience while working from home. If it’s true that we’re avoiding the commute, it’s also true that many of us are putting more hours into work. Context switch is hard and the things you can do after work are limited or getting repetitive. There is also the added pressure to overdeliver and show that as an individual you can be trusted while away from the office. Would the post lockdown WFH experience be anything like this?
Perhaps because it’s summer, I miss going to grab launch with colleagues, the impromptu conversations about work and life, the walks to grab coffee (although I don’t drink it!), the casual drinks when the day is over (usually at a similar time every day), and that sense of joy to be back home after a day out.
Having employees working from home might give employers a short term productivity boost, and a big cut on their office space rent, but might also make the relationship with employees feel more transactional with less sense of connection and belonging.
Why I love the idea of a flexible Future of Work
Flexible work to me is the idea of having optionability given to each individual.
Each individual has unique needs based on specific circumstances, life style of choices, and/or family commitments. You might be outgoing and absorbing energy from every IRL interaction, therefore in need to work from an office surrounded by people, or enjoying the finest air quality and the peace of living in British Columbia, therefore remote would suite that best.
Flexibility means also having the ability to pick and mix, where the nature of the role permits. I might enjoy working from the office, but might need to work say a week from home to focus, or curious to try going abroad for a month or two to experience life in new country. As long as my output is consistent and aligned with business expectations, this would provide me with a better mental state and the ability to enjoy in full my life while working for a company I care about.
Assumptions aside, the best way to approach problems before implementing solutions is to collect data. Companies are going above and beyond to learn from their employees, and it’s imperative to understand from them what would be the model that can best fit their needs going forward and how it fits the company structure.
What are your learnings so far? Will your model change radically compared to what it was pre-pandemic? If you have anything to share I’d love to know – just ping me on Twitter at @giovanniluperti or say hi @HumaansHQ
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