Whatever people might think now about working life in the future, I think it’s safe to predict we’ll be operating in a new normal.
The statement “I have to go to the office” will become a foreign concept, though a home working/office mix will probably remain.
And the shift we see now will be eclipsed again by what’s coming, for example projecting holograms of ourselves that will attend meetings and speak in the local language anywhere in the world. Even though this might still take some time.
So, what are we seeing in the present that will affect what happens in our near future?
People are taking existing tools and using them differently. For example, Flipgrid – until now – was an application designed for teachers to host video discussions with students. But with social distancing and high school students missing out on homecoming and prom – quite important events in the life of US teenagers – it’s now being used for filming graduation ceremonies and honours nights remotely.
High schools, generally, have tended to resist remote working but now they’re becoming completely open to the idea, such as Microsoft Teams for virtual mentoring sessions. Where the answer was a hard “no” before, they are now asking what the options are.
At US college level, Florida university students and faculties are using online applications like Teams and Zoom. It’s the only way they can operate currently and I believe there’ll be long-term effects from this, including unexpected benefits and challenges.
Change – predictable and unpredictable
One thing that should increase through remote working is productivity. The next generation of workers will work flexible hours and spend less time travelling to the office.
However, other effects of this change are hard to imagine: businesses will need to think differently and offer guidelines for people working from home, so they can separate work/home life and protect their mental health.
With more people working remotely, some will need to find home workspaces for the first time.
People also need to consider if their internet providers are good enough for working from home properly. And would the company pay for fast broadband and can they create a mobile hotspot if the internet goes down?
Planning for a remote working future
If there’s something positive for businesses, it’s the idea of devising a comprehensive ‘work from anywhere’ approach.
That starts with the leadership team having a continuous improvement mindset and future-looking ideas that might seem crazy at first.
And it’s about getting people around the organization involved to understand what’s the right balance for changes in the way it does business. That could include specific days of the week when people can work remotely if they want to.
Also, when talent is equally distributed but opportunity is not, organizations might think more about how a remote working capability can attract new hires who would add value despite being geographically distant.
The things that larger companies in some sectors have done for a while will now start dripping down to other sectors and smaller companies.
ITIL and best practice approaches
Best practices for remote workers – such as ITIL® – will also help create the foundations for well-oiled, organizational machines. For example, ITIL addresses continuity of operations. Having that in place means businesses will be better prepared to respond to working from home and have the contingency plans to make it happen quickly if there is an interruption to operations.
Change is difficult for people and this is one of those moments in time when the direction of travel has accelerated more than many are comfortable with.
To make these adjustments, supporting cultural change and organizational change management is key; business leaders needs to recognize that success will depend on how well they manage this change and the people affected by it.