How true – for without planning, the future becomes simply a matter of luck.
What brought this to mind was reading a report from IWG / Regus earlier today entitled, “The Future of Work – a trends forecast for 2023.” and as they’re among the biggest suppliers globally of hybrid and co-working office space, it’s worth understanding their views.
Since the start of the pandemic around three years ago, the world of work has changed enormously, and is still changing.
Initially, of course, it was all about remote working, much due to lockdowns in various parts of the world, but more recently we’re seeing employers asking, even insisting, that people return to offices as they’re finding remote working has some very mixed results.
So, what is the future likely to look like, and how can you plan your business to be ready for it?
Productivity is, of course, a key factor for any business, and it seems that hybrid working – the mix of working remotely and in the office – does increase this. Not only do some 31% of workers surveyed by IWG believe productivity is increased by hybrid working, but Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom has put a number of 3-4% on this.
However, what has had to change with the introduction of remote / hybrid working is the measure – hours at a desk or in an office simply don’t do it, and it’s become about delivering on tasks. This, of course, means having effective systems in place to define and measure KPIs, such as an OKR framework.
This, in turn, is helping to drive a move to a four-day working week: generally using the 100:80:100 system, where staff agree to deliver 100% of their productivity (read: KPIs), while working 80% of the hours and receiving 100% of their pay. Last year, significant trials took place around the world, yielding positive results. In fact, 55% of Gen Z workers in the IWG survey believe a 4-day week will become the norm in the next few years. Of course, this will need careful planning for customer-facing staff and teams, as customers are likely to still want to interact as frequently as before.
Related to this, is the unsurprising finding that people want their offices – when they do go into them – to be close to where they live. In fact, 77% of those surveyed said it was essential for their next job move, with 85% of Gen Z workers wanting this.
This is fuelling the growth of office space in secondary towns (previously often just viewed as ‘dormitory suburbs’ for commuters) at the expense of the big offices in major cities. What effect will this have on transport infrastructure (as well as huge buildings in major cities), especially as the concept of the 15-Minute City develops – where work, education and entertainment are all within 15 minutes on foot or by bicycle?
And, in our increasingly interconnected world, will the workforce of the future even need to be in the same country as the main office? After all, with the concept of spending some time in the office being for team-collaboration, provided the team can gather somewhere with access to the central systems, does it really matter where that is? With people looking to have more leisure time thanks to the 4-day week, won’t distant locations with better climates (which are often less expensive to live in, too) become increasingly attractive?
Allied to this is the increasing cost of energy. In colder climates, heating a home 24×7 can be a significant expense for people, so working in a building shared by others – and commercial buildings are often more sustainable & energy efficient, too – can reduce costs and companies’ overall carbon footprint; something of increasing importance with the growing demands of ESG reporting, as well as societal pressures.
This, in turn, all ties back to workers increasingly expecting the companies for which they work to have values which align with their own, with a third of Gen Z workers saying they would quit a job if the company’s values didn’t align with theirs. In fact, almost half said they would refuse to join a business that didn’t have clear environmental and social goals, and would leave if the employer backtracked on its targets. Consequently, a number of leading companies have seen fit to create a Chief Purpose Officer at board level.
It’s not all bad news for business, of course – companies are able to considerably downsize their need for large offices in the most expensive cities, paying for much smaller central locations and a number of small distributed ones to accommodate the need for fewer staff being office-bound at any point in time. This reduces their costs while improving their energy credentials, too. And for workers, the advantages of much less commuting are enormous, too – lower costs and stress, the latter meaning less time off work which, again, improves productivity and further reduces company costs.
But, apart from the changes to location and mode of working, what else should employers be planning for?
There’s little question that we’re entering an era of rapid growth in the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence). Few people can have failed to see the interest generated in the past few weeks by ChatGPT for example, with stories of it passing MBA, and other exams, being widespread. It is, of course, very much in the early days of this, but is fuelling enormous interest in allied tech stories, such as whether Google could lose its dominance of the search market to Microsoft’s Bing, due to the latter’s investment in ChatGPT.
But it goes very much deeper than that. As AI becomes mainstream, many of today’s jobs, and the companies supporting them, could be under threat without significant changes to what they deliver to customers. A good deal of focus has been given professional writers of various sorts, of course, as this was where some of the first tests were done, but it stetches across industries, such as a story this week posing the question, “ChatGPT: Death knell for investment banks?”
So, on your company risk register, should you not be adding AI (as well as adding it to your “opportunities” research)?
And, as AI expands, could Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a metaverse become more likely, with virtual meetings as currently handled on applications like Zoom and Teams moving to a virtual reality world with great levels of interaction? Corporations such as Disney, Publicis, Proctor & Gamble and LVMH are taking the metaverse idea sufficiently seriously that they now have a C-suite role focused specifically on this, and some are building their own virtual spaces – such as Accenture.
Of course, these huge changes in the way jobs are done, coupled with the changes already brought about by hybrid working models, will mean ongoing staff training programs will become a necessity. Apparently nearly a third of employees in the UK changed jobs in the past year because of a lack of training and upskilling opportunities, so it’s clearly something to take very seriously.
In fact, almost 90% of US HR executives believe they could reduce staff turnover by offering a more appealing benefits package to staff – and retaining key staff will become ever more important, with ongoing skills development and hybrid working being among these.
So, as we look at the next few years, what changes do you need to plan for the future of work in your business? There’s little question that shorter working weeks and hybrid working will be among these, together with smaller offices (distributed as appropriate). While there will be the potential for significant cost savings here, training costs are likely to increase as are the costs of increasingly fast infrastructure to support distributed, virtual working. But these will be offset to a degree by the lower costs associated with staff turnover as you retain your key team members, and increasingly make use of AI, especially for routine functions.
And, given this article in Fortune last month, “An alarming share of CEOs say their companies won’t be viable in 10 years if they stick to the ‘current path’” planning for this changing world of work takes on a new level of importance.
Following a career spanning nearly 50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.
If you’d like to discuss your business strategy, culture, goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.
I’d be delighted to talk with you.
If you’d like to read further, these related posts might be of interest:
- “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” – Abraham Lincoln
- “If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.” – Stephen Covey
- “Success breed complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” – Andy Grove
- 3 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Top Performers and Your Company in Great Shape for the New World of Work
- Inflation – Reducing the Risks to Your Business with the 5 Cs
- Planning to De-Risk Your Business Against Future Threats
- 10 Principles for a Sustainably Excellent Culture – Beginning With “We”
- OKR – Measuring What Matters
- The Power of Accountability in Business Success
- 3 Rs of Great Leadership – Results Reputation and Relationships
And from the archives (10 years ago):
- The Changing Way We Work & Live – part 1
- The Changing Way We Work & Live – part 2
- The Changing Way We Work & Live – part 3
You might also find this article interesting: Google nosedives after ChatGPT rival spits back inaccurate information
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