Remote working: what will it mean for the future of work?
It’s widely agreed that we are currently living amongst the most dramatic disruption to working culture in our lifetimes.
In the process, both employees and technology have been put through their paces in ensuring business continuity, in what could be dubbed the great “work-from-home test”.
One certainty to come out of this great “test” is that there will be a notable change in the way that we work in the future, both in how we approach the working day and the facilities that we use and need. A light has been shone on some of the wider benefits of having the home as your office, but it has equally highlighted that there is still a need for a central place of work. What’s for sure is that attitudes to both are set to change, with employees working a much more even split between the two.
Working from home: a spotlight on productivity and work/life balance
Once the world returns to normality remote working will no longer be unusual, and we’ll see a movement towards ‘flexible as standard’, owing to the acknowledged productivity benefits. According to a survey by Canada Life, people who work from home rank their productivity as 7.7 out of 10, compared with 6.5 for office workers, and a further survey by Gartner found that 41% of employees are more likely to work remotely at least some of the time once we return to normality.
Permanently working from home has also allowed employees to manage their time to how best suits them. According to a recent YouGov poll, only 6% of employees are working the traditional hours of 9am to 5pm, and just 14% would opt for those hours if given the chance. It’s allowing employees to work smarter - not harder – and be much more productive as a consequence, quashing the scourge of ‘presenteeism’. It’s also helping employees to achieve a superior work/life balance and better manage domestic responsibilities such as childcare, with potentially significant ramifications for future gender equality in the workplace.
All of the above will, in turn, mean that the home will become a more prominent place of work, with at least a couple of days a week spent in the home office. As such, it will change the way that we think about the home office and expectations of how employees are equipped. Allowing employees to simply have an office laptop that they take home won’t be enough, especially from a health and safety and productivity perspective. It’ll become an expectation that employees will be provided with the appropriate home office peripherals in order to carry out their work to the best of their abilities.
The corporate office – where to next?
The great “test” hasn’t signalled the death of the corporate office, however. If anything, it has proven that employees still want to meet face to face at least some of the time.
Many organisations have found through the lockdown that collaboration and the sharing of ideas have been difficult. Connecting, creating and collaborating in person is vital for innovation, and whilst video collaboration can help, there are still nuances in conversations that are lost in email, or on phones or screens. Working from home can also be lonely, so there’s a good chance employees will still want to catch up with colleagues in the office.
However, the new work from home paradigm will most likely make businesses reconsider how they use office space. According to Gartner 74% of CFOs expect to move a number of previously on-site employees to remote working situations permanently once things are back to normal in a move to cut commercial real estate costs. This has the potential to shift perceptions of office space being a permanent 9-5 workstation to a fluid meeting space where employees go to only when they need to interact face-to-face.
One certainty to come out of the lockdown experience will be a change in people’s attitudes towards being in close contact with other people for extended periods of time. Social distancing is a legacy that will live on, and there’s a good chance that hygiene will be a much more important consideration than before. For example, we may see more touch-free sensors installed in office spaces, such as light and power switches and door handles. Antimicrobial materials will most likely become standard, alongside more and better air filtration.
There’s a good chance we’ll see desks being spaced farther apart. In recent years the amount of square footage allotted per employee has gone down from 211.4 sq. ft. in 2009 to 17.6 square feet in 2017, according to Cushman & Wakefield. With awareness of social distancing, this trend for compressing more people into less floor space will be reversed. Workstations will be positioned at least six feet apart as standard, with the required office space being provided by more employees working from home. The way we use shared workstations are also likely to be called into question, with shared keyboards and mice likely to disappear, and each employee having their own personal peripherals instead.
We can also predict that in many cases we’ll see a reallocation of office space, with more specialized areas, to cater to the needs of the more equally dispersed workforce between home and office. For example, many will opt for more video-enabled ‘huddle rooms’, which will facilitate conversations between smaller teams both at home and in the office.
The new normal
In the face of imposed working from home, companies have been forced to innovate, which in turn has driven investment and improvement. Changes that many campaigners have spent years fighting for have been put in place overnight. It has forced teams to better understand remote working and try things that were previously thought to be impossible. A welcome conclusion is that it has helped companies to develop a healthier relationship with flexible working and all of the digital technologies that support it, which will positively impact numerous people's daily working practices and make office-style jobs more inclusive.
This article was contributed by Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, Logitech.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.