Working environments for the future
Technology will be used in a much richer way to communicate, manage projects, talk to customers and develop strategy. Steve Mostyn of Saïd Business School outlines some key considerations for business.
We have all experienced a dramatic shift in how we work over the past few months. Away from the familiarity of workshops and flip charts, I ran a Zoom session recently with a group of CEOs and asked a simple question: “What would you like to take back into the new world of work from our current lockdown environments?”
The responses provide a glimpse into a new future, reminding me of science fiction writer William Gibson, who observed that “the future is already here but unevenly distributed.”
Some of the suggestions made include:
- losing the obsession with the traditional working day and presenteeism – “we will think about outputs more than who is around”
- banning in-person townhalls – “we’ve had better attendance and more real, honest questions during our virtual sessions than ever before”
- using technology to meet new people – “our team created a ‘virtual coffee’ feature, where you would meet a randomly assigned colleague for 10 minutes with only one guideline – do not talk about work!”.
The context to the discussion was that technology will be used in a much richer way to communicate, manage projects, talk to customers and develop strategy.
This paints a positive (green, rush-hour free) working future. However, an ever-more challenging reality co-exists and it is already upon us: ruthless cost cutting, redundancies and a Darwinian culling of business models that simply don’t work. This puts huge pressure on leaders and executives to think and act radically differently about designing work and how to engage and hire talent.
How organisations retain, develop and recruit talent will be subject to a disruptive innovation.
Multinational IT services and solutions company Fujitsu has announced that it will halve its office space, making working from home the standard whenever possible, while Twitter has said that staff can work from home “forever” if they wish, as the company looks towards the future, post- COVID-19.
Organisational design, from physical workspaces to how teams work, will be the new focus of HR productivity and how organisations retain, develop and recruit talent will also be subject to a disruptive innovation.
The CEO of Dropbox, Drew Houston, commented in Forbes: “We’ve gone through a one-way door. I can’t think of a bigger shift in terms of our working life, certainly not one that’s as sudden.”
To thrive as we exit this ‘one-way door’, the following three approaches will help energise and engage.
- Innovate in new talent strategies. Hiring and talent-development processes will need to be radically redesigned. This redesign will kill off deeply held assumptions around presenteeism. The real productivity revolution will focus on team skills and project outcomes.
- Explore future trends. What do your changed customers (both customers and employees) want now, six months and six years into the future? Invite customers into this process.
- Involve employees in co-designing your new workspace. I know people who are delighted to work from home and others desperate to return to exactly the same workplace. Both groups need to understand and design what they will lose and gain.
Originally published in Catalyst Magazine The 'Digital' Issue. To thrive as we exit this ‘one-way door’, the following three approaches will help energise and engage.
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