What leaders need to know about work’s flexible future.
Work is no longer a place. It’s all about what you do—not necessarily where you do it from.
Even before Covid-19, the decoupling of where work happens from how work gets done was on the rise.
Organizations now recognize what most remote workers knew all along―that work can get done from anyplace. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article reported that knowledge workers believe they have been more productive at home during the pandemic because they have been able to “focus on what really matters.” In a recent Work Survey fielded by Wakefield Research on behalf of ServiceNow, 87% of employees said the new way of working was an improvement.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say remote work is here to stay.
What does all this mean for companies, and how does it affect what organizations should be looking to do with their workplaces over the long term? I, for one, am excited about what I see.
Employees decide where work gets done
By separating the “where” of work from the “how,” companies can empower employees to choose where they will do their best work.
Companies and workers both benefit when managers trust employees to know what kind of work environment works best for them. Research by Owl Labs found remote workers tend to be happier in their jobs than workers who never leave the office (22%). They also put in longer hours, working over 40 hours per week 43% more than non-remote workers.
At the same time, employees who lose the freedom to work where they want may also lose enthusiasm for their job. A 2017 ServiceNow survey found 47% of employees would consider leaving if their company didn’t provide remote work options. I suspect that percentage would be even higher today.
To help keep knowledge workers productive and satisfied, organizations will need to offer some level of choice and flexibility about where work can be done.
The workplace is going hybrid
Work can only happen anywhere when it’s digitized and connected. But even organizations whose work must done on site, such as a research lab or manufacturing plant, can digitize processes and workflows to increase efficiencies, improve operations, and optimize output.
As the way we work becomes more fluid, a hybrid environment will arise. This workplace of the future will support more flexible arrangements, replacing dedicated workstations with hoteling spaces and resources that can be reserved or used on the fly. Achieving this vision will require us to rethink all the ways in which employees interact with the workplace as well as how leaders work with their employees to get work done.
Leaders must adjust how they lead
In building the hybrid workplace of the future, leaders must consider every aspect of the experience—from the moment an employee joins the company to the moment they leave. Get it right and employees are going to be successful. Get it wrong and your business will suffer.
Start by paying close attention to these four critical areas:
1) Cultivate your culture
Sitting in the same building does not a culture make. With a distributed workforce, leaders must consciously drive culture into the employee experience across various work settings. They need to focus on how their company values show up through a wider variety of mechanisms and channels. This requires finding new ways to keep employees accountable and engaged so that everything they do aligns with and builds the culture.
2) Set clear expectations
The best leaders have always been able to set a vision and inspire people to work together to achieve that vision. This remains true in the age of the connected workplace, but it is a little harder when managers don’t have constant line of sight into all their employees. Trust, accountability, and clarity of purpose become that much more important. Leaders must find ways to communicate objectives and expectations effectively, and course-correct when necessary.
3) Manage performance
Being in the office has never equated to being productive. Shifting to a results-oriented environment allows leaders to focus on what matters. Using clearly defined metrics and deliverables as benchmarks, managers can track progress and address issues early on to improve overall performance.
4) Foster innovation
We’ve seen that remote workers can be productive. Can they be. innovative as well? According to the mythology of innovation, workers need to be in the office, bumping into others, or meeting face-to-face to come up with new ideas. The reality is that inspiration can come from anywhere. Leaders will simply have to find ways to create opportunities for innovation among people and teams that may never be in the same room.
The new world of the hybrid digital workplace is full of tantalizing possibilities. At ServiceNow, we are beyond excited to support companies as they reimagine and realize the full potential of the flexible future of work.