The practice of flexibility and mobility at work has been around for a long time. Long enough for companies to come full circle when surfacing data that shows co-location among teams fosters collaboration-centric work leading to increased innovation. IMB grabbed hold of that in 2017 and used it to make the case for ending remote work. While this has some degree of merit, it’s equally true that if managed well, remote and distributed teams can be as effective, if not more productive and innovative as their office employee counterparts.
So, what’s a company to do when they want to tap the most innovative, creative workforce they can find (and keep) in order to be an employer of choice? And how do leaders think about flexibility, mobility and a remote workforce in strategic way that doesn’t compromise a corporate culture that fosters team collaboration?
To answer those questions, organizations will do well to keep thinking about the ways work changed over the past several years and how changes will continue to influence workplaces in the future. Here’s what we see happening:
- What employees seek most in their jobs and their workplaces is autonomy and choice. They want to know their leadership trusts them to do good work every day, from wherever they are, in the office or not, with their teams or independently. Often this results in a mix of days in the office and days employees work remotely. While the degree to which companies embrace flexibility has matured, the ability to strengthen competencies of managers who lead distributed teams has not. Learning and development continues to be a key aspect to helping managers lead high performance distributed teams; short burst online training (micro learning) and leadership development will remain priorities for global teams.
- Employees want to be trusted to collaborate with their teams in workspaces that foster creativity and innovation. New workspaces in 2018 integrate emerging technologies with redesigned collaborative and private spaces. Companies that tap into the thought leadership and research of firms such as Knoll and Steelcase are investing in workplace strategy & design in order to build creative workplaces and to understand workplace practices across the globe.
- Companies are interested in knowing their ROI on redesigned space beyond showcasing the newest colors and furniture designs in the built environment. In 2018, they’re seeking better ways to understand how teams are collaborating (or not), who is a high performer (or not) and how that information yields more informed decision making. In 2018, people analytics will continue to provide leadership teams with more precise correlation data to identify significant positive relationships based on patterns of behavior. Tech firms like Humanyze are using sentiment analysis to help organizations and leaders in the next wave of understanding of teamwork, collaboration and talent.
- The notion that a remote worker is someone in another location will remain the same, but the idea that a remote worker is someone who never comes into the office will change. Companies attracting top talent will need to continuously understand the nature of mobile workstyles and embed it into their cultures. Preferred mobile workstyles are ones that accommodate weekly team rhythms, project and product workflows. Companies will bring remote workers together in shared workspaces for occasional face to face interaction; they will also continue to invest in tools that strengthen relationship building in a virtual world with technologies like Microsoft Surface Hub, Fuze, Cisco Spark, and Owl Labs.
- Companies are increasingly making big investments in AI in ways that strengthen operations and optimize productivity. Automation will continue to make recruiting functions easier, yet online applicant tracking systems retain their reputation as notorious black holes and resumes are becoming more obsolete. This will not abate in 2018, as prospective employees still source jobs through friends and former colleagues, augmenting talent pipelines for companies. The growth and use of assessment tools like the Predictive Index to screen for candidates, however, will remain an effective strategy in 2018, matching prospective candidate skills and abilities with talent companies need most.
- Wellness and mindfulness will continue to be part of corporate conversations that address ways to combat employee stress: the feeling of being always on, hyper-connected in a 24/7 world. With a plethora of productivity apps to manage communications and workflows including tools like Slack, Evernote, Redbooth, and more, employees are seeking ways to carve time-outs before, during, or after their workday ends. Whether 10 minute increments or hour-long lunch and learns, workshops on mindfulness, and apps like Headspace and Calm will grow in use this year.
At Flexwork Global, we’ve always had a passion for the future of work and how companies respond to disruptive change. In the past, changes were led by employees who adopted new technologies and work practices while companies were challenged to keep up with the innovations employees used fluently.
We’ve seen significant changes in the market with companies maturing their focus and approach to flexible and mobile workplaces in myriad ways to meet workforce needs. And as conversations and approaches evolved, so have we.
Jay, Karen and I are expanding our interests, moving on to explore them, but will continue to share thought leadership & insights on future workplaces and the changing nature of how, when and where we work.