Has the future of work become reality? Or will we be back to the commute in 6 months time?
The future of work has never been more in the spotlight. The majority of businesses have been forced into flexible working and are now in the midst of the biggest experiment into working practices they’ve ever seen. The team at Amazemeet are no exception to this, we’ve been having better meetings at an alarming rate! The times we’re living through have heralded the dawn of a new future of work with flexibility at its heart for some, for others this is a temporary blip for business as usual.
But who’s right? Will there be significant change in how employees are viewed and managed, will we embrace the flexible model or will we slowly retreat back to our office based habits as we emerge from lockdown?
The situation pre-Covid
As humans we are always looking for patterns and symbolism, it seems pre and post-Covid will be terms entering our everyday lexicon if they have not already. But, let’s look back at the world of work before Covid changed the world. For years flexible work and a changing world of work seemed like a happy nirvana that was easily in reach for the majority of the workforce, we just had to take the plunge. The reality of course was quite different. Dispight all the PR mileage very few companies actually offered flexible work and ran distributed teams with a few outlying exception such as Automatic the team behind wordpress. Quite frankly the majority of companies didn’t want to take the risk. Flexible work simply became one of those phrases on a job ad alongside free drinks and fusball table as many employees would find out the hard way. But what was driving this? A lack of employee trust, lack of infrastructure or simply an ingrained working methodology driven top down that was inescapable?
The answer is probably all of the above. Whatever the reason a truly flexible workplace was in most cases confined to the blogs who extolled its benefits. Despite the fact that virtually every survey you care to read indicated that employee wellbeing, happiness, was directly correlated with performance. Happy staff, performing company. (Not sure that’s a saying but it’s true!) So armed with this knowledge we can only assume that legacy and fear of change were barriers to a change in working practices, quite frankly a change long overdue as the arcane practise of the daily trudge to the office should have been resigned to history years ago.
Covid changed all that
Suddenly though that change was forced. Lockdown measures, work from home orders kicked in and companies had to adapt and the smart ones are already reflecting on the outcome. For some it’s been a nightmare for others seamless. The early hutzpah does however seem to have faded. In the early stages organisations were keen to tell how much they could save, how little impact they’d felt but was this simply great PR to keep us the public from panicking that our bank was about to collapse or that our personal data was being managed on a kitchen table somewhere? All too readily had plans been put in place for a return to the office. It seemed the flexible honeymoon was about to end.
But will it?
Some organisations have embraced the situation and have actively re-evaluated their relationships with their employees. Twitter may never ask employees to regularly attend the office again, Siemens has established mobile working 2-3 days a week as a core component and is using it to drive change in it’s leadership and culture. But who else?
I believe the model that will win out will be one of flexibility, no pu intended. There’s no doubt that human interactions face to face have advantages over online meetings. Sitting at a desk and getting on with things however is a different story. Maybe Siemens have the answer or maybe it should be up to the employees to decide. Beneath this however there are cultural changes and management changes that need to happen alongside adoption of technology and simply taking the plunge. All three areas need to be in place to successfully embrace a flexible if not fully distributed working model. What is for certain however is the cat is out of the bag, employees who’ve had a taste of flexible working will be far less inclined to want to go back. In fact I can see true flexibility being a cornerstone of job searches and it’s clear employee churn will be a challenge for those not opting to change.
At Amazemeet our focus is on those interactions, those meetings. We know for certain that whether face to face or remote technology needs to play it’s part to ensure we work towards outcomes.
Re-evaluating what’s important
It’s hard to judge how good an experience will be until you try it. This is certainly true of remote working. Now we have many of us like it, really like it. Pre-Covid i could see an argument for taking the office job that paid £10k more a year over the flexible job because we’re naturally risk averse and we have now frame of reference. Now that’s changed it would argue the latter is a much more attractive option for most. The grassroots is often the driver of many a change and people vote with their feet. The next 3-5 years could see a real shift. Sure if you’re 25, no kids and single the attractive city job is a no-brainer but what about when you’re 35, married with a kid and plans for a second? You’re also likely further up the food chain experience wise, you may therefore pose a bigger loss. Even writing this though I feel a certain bias dictated by age, if we all just focussed on output rather than time spent!
In my mind that’s the biggest hurdle leadership needs to overcome. A change from time spent to output, goals met will be the driver. Amazemeet is deisgned to do just that, focus on the outcome not the time spent getting there. If we simply embraced that at every level of an organisation who cares how much time you spend at your desk.
Chances are you’ll be performing better anyway.