It was a highly stimulating, rich discussion. Below are slivers of the discussion organized around just two of the major themes of the conversation, focusing on my thoughts but also including insights from the other panelists (distorted through my memory and perception):
We have irreversibly shifted into an era in which remote and hybrid work are the norm. Every organisation needs to transition their working practices to succeed in this new environment. Large corporations move slowly yet are used to embarking on change initiatives. The challenge is very different for small & medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which can be more nimble but have highly limited resources.
Are we in a “post-Covid” world? Whatever happens, we can be sure of one thing: we now work, live, and do business in a hybrid world that integrates both physical and digital engagement. This is a new world; there is no way we’re going back to how things used to be.
Flexibility and experience at the centre
One of the lessons underlined by the pandemic is that human society is highly resilient. It is true that the adjustment and flexibility required was forced on individuals and companies, but most found themselves able to adapt far faster than they would have imagined possible.
This has created a world in which two elements become critical:
Over the last couple of years the enforced shift to remote work and then hybrid work has led many organizations to shift how they work.
One of the most fundamental changes in shifting from office-based to distributed teams is the need to move from synchronous to asynchronous work.
United Arab Emirates is the first country in the world to adopt a 4½ day workweek across the government. At the same time it switched from a Friday-Saturday weekend, as is common in Muslim countries, to a break extending from Friday afternoon through Sunday, aligning its calendar with Western countries. Private employers are expected to follow suit.
As we emerge from the pandemic, in most countries office work is resuming at scale, meaning doing hybrid work well is a priority for every organization. This topic currently makes up a considerable portion of my client work.
Many workers and executives have learned to appreciate the many positives of remote work, yet for many reasons very few companies will dispense with offices, since they can play a valuable role in highly productive organizations.
News that the investment firm of former Facebook VP Sam Lessin, Slow Ventures, has invested $1.7 million in YouTuber Marina Mogilko has reinvigorated the debate over whether investing in individuals is a good idea.
The deal gives Lessin 5% of Mogilko’s creator earnings for the next 30 years, but only if her earnings reach a certain threshold.
I first wrote about this idea in 2010 in a piece Will there be capital markets for people?, in which I looked at what had already happened in the space, and then again in 2012 writing about the startup Upstart, which tried to establish the same model. (Upstart subsdquently reverted to a more traditional personal lending model based on AI predictions, went to IPO last year and is now valued over 10x hgher at more than $20 billion).
We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of business and work. After almost a year of concerted vaccination programs throughout the developing world, COVID is shifting from a pandemic to being endemic, still likely to be present indefinitely, but contained and allowing us to resume relatively normal lives.
This is leading to a gradual—or sometimes rapid—resumption of office-based work. A minority of organizations appear to be intent on reverting to work structures very similar to those before the pandemic, with standard office hours, five days a week the norm. That is an enormous missed opportunity. This is a time to move forward rather than look back.
I greatly enjoyed our far-ranging conversation, which delved deep into the future of work and as far as the future of society. You can listen to the whole episode below.
It is clear that many organizations are still grappling with the shift to remote and distributed work, with many leaders hoping that they can before long resume work in the way that it was before.
A little while ago on the Virtual Excellence Show I was delighted to speak with Terri Griffith, currently Keith Beedie Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, and a deep expert in how organizations accelerate performance as the nature of work changes.
In this brief video Terri gives great perspective on our shift to effective remote work, including the insights from applying her 5T framework.