In last week’s post we talked about the future of work here’s part 2.
With Covid as the catalyst from the outside it seems the promised land of flexible working is upon us. But, the future of work may not be quite as rosy. Why? People will likely be the barrier. It’s as easy to argue a future where employees get exactly what they want, productivity goes up, and better meetings are had. It’s not that simple.
People will make the change
The question is will they? For every person that’s revelled in flexible working there’s a company for whom it’s been a struggle. People generally fear change and the change required to go from office based to a fully flexible model is a big one. Technology aside, we’ve proved it works, larger organisation have honed their management process over long periods. Do they work flexibly? There’s also the control issue. It’s very easy to say you don’t trust your employees if you don’t let them work flexibly. But, the answer is more nuanced. It’s hard to unpick what’s been ingrained for so long.
Finding balance will be the key
I don’t see a world where we’re all working flexibly. I see a world we employees and employers will be able to set the terms of flexibility within a framework. Some office days required, especially for the kind of face to face meetings that do need to happen. It’s likely forward thinking companies will set out how they want their employees to interact, not something they’ve had to pay much attention to when everyone is in the office. But if we want to bring in flexibility it has to work for everyone not just a few. I remember a talk given by a well know software company founder. They were a fully distributed business but they’d tried a few options, a bit of this a bit of that, leaving it to employees to dictate. It didn’t work. They realised they had to go all in with one model, fully remote worked for them but for others it will be different.
That’s the key to this future of work I feel. It’s not about just saying yes, it’s about businesses making a concious decision to work in a certain way. That decision is tough if it steps outside the norm because to make it work requires the whole way the company functions to adapt.
Happier employees are more productive. But employees that feel in control of their destiny and in equal partnership with their employees are even happier. Everything is geared to output. It’s easy to say but most employers don’t measure people on productivity as a sole indicator of success. Just turning up is still a factor. This is where a real shift comes in because it opens up a whole new area of scrutiny. I think getting it right will reap rewards for employers not just in terms of output but in terms of attractiveness to the right talent. Not everyone can work at companies that pay mega bucks and most employers can’t pay mega bucks. So competing on the quality of the environment, work life balance and overall happiness is a great next step. In fact something that may well become the attribute people look for more than simply the cash.