I’m sipping coffee on a sidewalk café in Belgrade, it is eerily post COVID here, people out, dining, laughing, and surprisingly mask free. I get flashbacks of the summer I spent here two long years ago. At that time, I thought what I was doing was cutting-edge — a digital nomad working full-time and traveling the world. I believed I was proof office culture would go extinct, and remote work would reign supreme.
Instead of remote advocates, like me, inspiring people that remote work was the future, it was a different kind of fight, a fight against the global COVID pandemic that would finally convince the big tech-elite to fully embrace remote work. Those giants including Facebook, Google, Coinbase, Twitter, and 74% of other companies (as revealed in a recent Gartner survey) are planning to go, and stay, remote this year.
This apocalyptic turn of events killed office culture and all evidence points to the fact that Remote is “now”, which begs the question “What’s next?”
To answer that question, it is first useful to examine what the Remote Work revolution has taught us so far.
So, what’s next? My top 3 predictions (or hopes and dreams) …
- Work is something you do, not tied to any specific company
A Gallup study shows flexibility is key to employee retention. 53% of employees say greater work-life balance and personal well being are “very important” to them when considering whether to take a new job. The next step in that flexibility are new approaches to employment such as engaging with part-time workers, freelancers, and contractors working on a per project basis.
For part-time workers this option allows ownership in prioritizing work in addition to things like health concerns, care-taking for children or the elderly, or simply having more personal time. For companies, it offers an ability to retain top talent with alternative career goals, and to generate successful project outcomes with fewer resources.
For freelancers and contractors, having multiple outlets to use their expertise increases work flexibility, can help stimulate creativity, provides more control, and allows room to explore new interests. For businesses, it allows supplemental expertise in solving specific business problems, creates an environment for knowledge sharing on non-sensitive business issues, and allows for feedback and innovation from questioning the assumptions of one business’ “way of doing things.”
2. Output can come from multiple sources
Just as employees may want the option to work for multiple companies, businesses can benefit from having multiple people do the same job. Job-sharing, or work-sharing, is a system where a job traditionally held by one person is split between two people, immediately getting the benefits of the saying “two heads are better than one.” There are different ways to split up a role, based on employee’s interests or strengths, specific expertise and knowledge, or by focusing on pairing of two diverse perspectives, such as inter-generational or cross-cultural team members.
3. Companies can hire people in unique mutually beneficial ways
Ultimately, the next step in the revolution or work will be to question assumptions of traditional full-time employee models and find options that are beneficial for companies and the people that build them. In the future the most successful companies will evolve their model to embrace a variety of people to champion work internally including full-time employees, consultants, freelancers, and part-time workers.
Of course, there are things that need to change in our current system to realize this future. One example, would be the de-coupling of health benefits from employment which seems to be a uniquely American burden, and more broadly re-imaging government and company support and services offered for this type of hybrid team.
If we can take steps to make those changes and encourage more inclusive work teams we can begin the movement of the next “Future of Work” and here is hoping we don’t need another global catastrophe to make that happen!