As companies start envisioning and planning for the new state of work, what are the key pieces of the stack that need to be considered?

Sir Richard called in 7 years ago, but the world is just beginning to catch up now. Why do we need offices anymore?

This movement to the “Future of Work” was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and is now causing companies to embrace the idea that work is not only done in a single physical office setting. However, to truly embrace the “Future of Work” means going beyond thinking about spaces and rethinking the concept of work in its entirety.

So how will we be working in the near future?

The concept of reimaging work is more than just about the physical space where people work and trying to decide between home and the corporate office or a blend between the two. Rather, reimaging work means re-evaluating all the aspects that impact how, when, and where work is done, and by whom.

I have broken down this reimagination exercise into 5 layers that need to be addressed by companies:

  1. WorkSpaces: where will we work in terms of physical and virtual spaces?
  2. Work Tools: what are the tools we will use to work and collaborate with each other?
  3. Work Services: how will companies deliver required services and benefits to their employees?
  4. Work Types: how will work types diversify, from full-time to part-time to project or gig-based, and how will these types function together?
  5. Work Management: how will companies monitor work, gauge efficiency, and improve the performance of their workforce?

1) Work Spaces

OLD ANSWER: centralized corporate offices
NEW ANSWER: hybrid, flexible work arrangements that include a mix of home, co-working spaces, corporate offices, and other

In the “Future of Work” scenario, we will not be discussing just how much to work from home or how much to work in the office, we will be trying to find the optimal mix between meeting together, working together, and concentrating alone and then arranging the availability of workspaces that fit those scenarios and the type of work required to be completed.

For example, there may be occasional office gatherings (“meeting together”) physically in large open spaces or auditoriums, agile team meetings both online (standup) and offline (in-person sprints) in smaller meeting spaces, and opportunities to work alone at home or outside in a co-working space. Each employee will find the right balance of spaces that fits their work style, tasks, and company culture.

2) Work Tools

OLD ANSWER: in-person meetings and workshops
NEW ANSWER: a mixture of online meetings, collaboration tools like 

, Teamflow, and occasional in-person gatherings

As we slide into increased flexibility and diversity of workspaces, we also need a new set of tools that will allow us to work together and apart more effectively. “Future of Work” is more than just switching from in-person meetings to online meetings, but rather using a combination of collaboration tools that allow teams to work both synchronously (live documents, whiteboards, real-time meetings, etc.) and asynchronously (messaging, file sharing, voice notes, etc.).

Each company will provide a suite of tools that talk to each other, which teams can then pick and choose from in order to maximize their own effectiveness and facilitate communication.

3) Work Services

OLD ANSWER: central, managed services accessed at the corporate office
NEW ANSWER: on-demand distributed services via subscription & pay-as-you-go, including both online and offline offerings

There is a certain convenience and cost-effectiveness of centralized services as a central office, whether that be stationary, printing and mail, or corporate perks such as an on-site gym, dietician, or even meals at the cafeteria. In the “Future of Work” scenario, some of those services can be replaced by online offerings (i.e. an online corporate perk platform) and others will be accessed from local vendors in our neighbors or via distributed offices. Specifically, employee wellness, with remote and local services designed to support employees in this distributed arrangement, will gain importance in this new iteration of work.

Shared services via subscriptions or pay-as-you-go offerings will allow multiple corporations to really share, consider “corporate sharing” rather than just “p2p sharing”, thereby minimizing costs and maximizing usage while increasing accessibility for its employees.

4) Work Types

OLD ANSWER: clear partitions between part-time and full-time work
NEW ANSWER: options for all types of work (full-time, part-time, gig-based, etc.) for all functions, giving employees flexibility & options

Why is full-time work the dominant form of employment? Is it really the best option for employment tasks and employees?

For example, imagine a pool of “agile employees” who can bid to work on company projects as they emerge, then work full-time for a period, then take a break before bidding to work on another project. Imagine current full-time roles that can be broken up into tasks or “gigs” or other roles that can be done part-time allowing employees to mix and match between them.

Furthermore, corporations have yet to learn how to work effectively with freelancers and gig workers that reside outside the organization. In reimagining work, organizations will also be reorganizing tasks and reallocating resources to better leverage internal and external talents.

5) Work Management

OLD ANSWER: hierarchical management & annual performance evaluations
NEW ANSWER: team-based accountability backed by data-driven, real-time performance tracking

Freelancer platforms like Odesk have already been using tracking software for years to remotely monitor the progress of freelancers and verify billing charges. Similar passive background software and metrics will make their way into mainstream corporate management as well, giving managers a dashboard of their projects and managing employees in real-time, regardless of wherever they are or wherever they are working.

Overall, managers will have a better understanding of how their employees are performing, and where they are getting stuck, and be able to intervene sooner despite the physical distance. Companies will also be able to do more real-time evaluations, and offer incentives that align with performance and company goals more regularly, rather than just annually.

Result: Redesigning the Employee Journey

Photo by Clemens van Lay on Unsplash

As we take a look at each of these layers in the stack, essentially we are engaging in a complete redesign of the employee experience and how we conceptualize work. Work is no longer a desk, an office, a 9:00–18:00 role with a long commute.

Work is everywhere, anytime, and flexible, allowing each person to find the combination of spaces, tools, services, types, and management that works for them. Similarly, companies will be exploring all of these combinations which helps them to achieve efficiency and employee satisfaction.

This transition post-pandemic is the “moment of truth” for companies and HR departments in terms of their relationship with their employees. Few will emerge unscathed. And a handful will launch themselves into a new stratosphere amongst the “best places to work”.

“When an organization makes the decision to value the individuality of its employees, it is not only the employees who win — the system wins, too, and wins bigger than ever.”

- Todd Rose

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Core Strateji is a strategy consulting firm that specializes in supporting leading companies to transform into ambidextrous organizations. Are you ready to move your innovation activities forward?