By Mike D’Abramo & Daniel Pozzebon
Sklar Wilton & Associates has been in the “building stronger brands” business for years and because the best brands are built from the inside out, we have extended our strategic services to help our clients navigate through disruption and futureproof their business. In this three-part blog series, we’ll examine the Future of Work as it relates to businesses, brands, people, and culture to help you ask the right questions and find answers that are unique to your company.
Since March 2020, we’ve existed in a world of Zoom, separated by small boxes on a screen. And, while the shift from in-person to online was abrupt, many businesses were able to transition smoothly, even thrive – citing increased levels of productivity and customer satisfaction. However, as we look towards the year ahead, a new hybrid working model is anticipated to emerge – one that offers the best of both in-person and online. But will businesses be ready for the next new normal?
According to a recent McKinsey survey, despite the embrace of a hybrid model, many organizations have not yet thought through the specifics of how to carry out a more permanent mix of remote and on-site work, leaving both leaders and employees feeling anxious about the future. While more than half (54%) of Canadian employers are planning to adopt a hybrid working arrangement, 68% have no detailed plan communicated or in place.
As we look towards the future, the integration of technology and work will be more important than ever. Additional tools will be required to support a wider range of schedules and work-from-more locations, raising the question how do we ensure technology unites as we transition to this new working model?
Here are some of the key concepts to consider as your organization plans for the Future of Work:
- Segmented Future: Hybrid is the mix of video, audio, and in-person interactions. Will your employees mix these approaches evenly or are you at risk of a segmented workforce? A group that likes to get together in person and a group that likes to work remote… Will these two groups work in parallel, or will they integrate? Hybrid work can lead to divisions (or even hierarchies) in who the ‘hardest-working employees really are’. The stewards of your company and its culture must align on where you want fall on this hybrid spectrum and how you will prevent segmenting from happening.
- Performance vs. Privacy: A hybrid world holds risks, and a potential improvement in assessing performance. No longer will we rely on who we see physically at their desk the longest. This kind of observational bias can be problematic in assessing an employee. In a hybrid world, the output of work needs to be qualified and quantified using different tools than observation. But digital observation has risks of its own. We have a more acute awareness of psychological safety than ever before and monitoring time on the server or mouse-clicks moves from assessing performance to surveillance more quickly than we expect. Find tools that allow for objective assessments without crossing the line.
- Hybrid Inclusivity: Most people who worked from home got better at it over time and many surveys reflect a real enthusiasm for the flexibility that hybrid work can offer. New U.S. patent applications that accommodate hybrid work “more than doubled from January to September 2020,” according to Bloom’s research. What if this everybody-all-at-once to new technology continues to change the way we see hybrid working? It is conceivable that we may see a day where hybrid work tools enable the person of colour who doesn’t feel totally included in the corporate culture, the out-of-region contingent worker and / or someone who is introverted to make exceptional contributions not available to them in the traditional workplace.
- Healthier Workers: Several studies have established the health benefits of working from home. While workplaces have more to do in terms of creating inclusive cultures and helping employees manage their mental health, hybrid working can be part of the solution. It changes how people interact but still encourages interaction. It gives people space to manage their lives and feel more mentally ready to address work challenges. Your organization can turn hybrid working into an opportunity to empower everyone to feel better about themselves and, ultimately better about the people they work with.
How will your organization change its ways of working in the future? How can you deliver on the promise of hybrid working that accelerates employee satisfaction and company growth? How much hybrid working you chose for your organization is up to you. But if you accept it in anyway, consider the tools, training, and other resources it will take to execute at the highest level and that are uniquely suited to your business.