Stop fixating on the place of work
Following an appearance at a ‘future of work’ event, Mobas MD Adam Tuckwell argues that the future of work is so much more than an agreement on ‘where’!
It’s pointless having a discussion about the future of work at this moment in time. People argue for or against hybrid working and returning to the office everywhere you look. Despite countless articles, news stories and reports on the topic, there seems to be little actual movement. There are no new arguments, no fresh perspectives: instead, business leaders have become entrenched in a battle where views are so set in stone that echo chambers have formed where there’s no grey, only black and white. This vocal discussion about where people should work is sucking all the oxygen out of the much more interesting debate about the future of work itself.
The Covid pandemic forced even the most ardent ‘work from the office’ fanatic to accept that it’s possible to operate differently. While most leaders rightly remain focused on profitability, the pandemic didn’t offer a fair test of whether the office is the most effective means of collaboration and working efficiency. There were simply too many other variables at play: just ask any team members with young children or elderly relatives.
I’ve found it fascinating to read about how the pandemic and the resulting workplace changes have enabled minority groups to feel more accepted and comfortable. It has allowed those with family or outside commitments to flex their work around their day-to-day lives. But critically, for me, where we work isn’t a revolution in the way we work. I find it fascinating that leaders are making what might be the most significant business decision of their careers, focusing exclusively on location.
Suppose we only think about the place of work. In that case, we’re missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to properly stop and reflect on how we work, why we exist, what purpose we serve, and how we engage and communicate with our colleagues, customers and stakeholders. Allowing the debate to rage on unchecked, we fail to see how we can make work more effective and profitable while also making it work for everyone.
This is a defining moment for businesses, and I don’t doubt that there are win-win scenarios for all firms to define – if we borrow a pandemic phase – a new normal. There are already outliers setting a new course. Airbnb is a prime example of this. They’ve told their staff they can work anywhere in the world, but only after committing to a new way of working by using technology and new working practices to make the holiday giant a more dominating force in the post-pandemic world.
If you’ve not set your strategy, use this time to watch, learn, read and explore how your business can evolve – and take the discussion beyond the ‘where’ and embrace the ‘why and how’ of your operations to fully exploit the opportunities that lie ahead.