The Old Ways of Work are Gone

It doesn’t matter what we think

It’s really hard to write about what is happening in the world without sounding like some kind of conspiracy theorist. Looking in the rear view mirror over the past blurry year, it seems like we have all participated in a botched experiment. I am not saying that anyone purposefully released a genetically modified virus which would cause a global pandemic. How would I know? Regardless the cause of the pandemic, we’ve all been a part of the result. This leads me to our recent historical behavior and the next generation of work.

About three years ago, I met with a good friend who served in a senior leadership position. For years I sought to convince him that working from home or remote working was the way of the future. I had no idea that we would be forced to work from home but I did believe at the time as I do now that working remotely is here to stay. He argued that people need to be in the office to collaborate and be available. He also argued that body language is critical. He had a lot of good arguments but none of these could hold up to the virus. In other words, in the days pre-virus, we needed to argue why we should be away from the office and in the days during the virus, we needed to argue why we should go to the office at all. Today, the very same executive, doesn’t see a reason to go into the office and would personally prefer to work remotely, It was only after this forced experience and the discovery of adapting to remote work that he would find the value for himself and his team.

There are companies that still believe people need to work in an office for work that doesn’t require a physical presence. These organizations are going to feel pain like they’ve never felt before from the labor market. The reason is due to the lessons learned during this pandemic. Some leaders who are ridiculously naïve or flat out stupid believe they can control or change the minds of the millions who’ve tasted and tested remote work.

Remote work for many has already happened and with a million + jobs open today, people have options. There are other benefits which have started to come from this situation. A few that we can look at and think through because they need to be developed further are:

  1. Leveling the playing field on salaries for all.
  2. The work performed shows value vs the person performing the work.
  3. More time available to people to manage as they need.
  4. More opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle.
  5. More opportunities to live somewhere else which may have economic, health and wellbeing benefits.
  6. Better communication as people are forced to write more.
  7. Lower costs for operations.
  8. Lower costs for travel.
  9. Faster availability and readiness for organizations.
  10. More flexibility for organizations.

The list goes on and on. Of course there are issues and I’m not denying them. It doesn’t matter what these issues are because this is the way people are working today and it will only evolve further.

Photo by Eneida Nieves on

As I write this from my cabin in the woods, you do not know if I am black or white, male, female, gender fluid, big or small, 8, 18 or 80. Even if you did know something like this about me, my words to you may not always bear the weight and burden of what I look like or sound like. It’s true that with remote work, we need to show up in video at times but I have found myself many times thinking less about the differences in people and more about the commonality. Some may argue that its anecdotal evidence but the world has taught us with the air clearing up in many places and people moving out of the cities and remote delivery with successful outcomes that it is healthier and better for all to embrace this way of working and find ways to enhance it to make it even better.

At the end of the day whether we believe it or not, it really doesn’t matter. The people will show us. I think of all the ideas I had about remote work early on. It took something smaller than a human hair to change the way the world works. If you would like to challenge this kind of thinking, I encourage you to do so. All said, with the Delta virus and other variants coming, I believe we are just getting started on finding new ways to be productive remotely. I also believe that this way of work will eventually put the planet on a path to heal.

Leaders will need to navigate remote working through better and more effective communication techniques. This is a good thing. As companies continue to evolve with this remote work shift, some will fall. Those who can’t evolve and adapt had a long runway which has just gotten a lot shorter.

What do you think?

Posted in KM.