For better or for worse, which you never know, the Covid 19 has left us some clear headlines regarding the way of working. First: teleworking is not the same as working in confinement, locked up at home and taking care of the family. Second: many jobs can be done remotely, but many others cannot. Third: there is enough technology to work remotely, both for connectivity and digital tools. Fourth: many people have worked more in these three months of confinement than in an equivalent period of normality. Fifth: productivity has not been reduced and downtime and displacement have been avoided. And sixth: it is possible to be connected without Human contact, But person-to-person contact has an added value beyond face-to-face.
If we more or less agree with these headlines, we should be able to draw some conclusions to outline what the work of the future will be like. And I say future work because this is so much bigger than teleworking. Let’s not get confused: working remotely is the first step of a ladder that goes much further – and we don’t know very well on which floor it ends – because much of the way we work today is modified.
What will be the bases of this new way of working? If I want to be exhaustive and without the enumeration reflecting priorities, I dare to identify the following:
First. Customer focus. Many tasks not directly linked to the customer will be simplified, especially the intermediate layers of support that increase costs and are not directly related to income.
Second. End-to-end process-based operating model. If he wants the client to buy a couple of clicks on the mobile, it is necessary to organize the processes transversally by reason of themes, not by functional areas. Agile methodologies facilitate this change and technological tools already allow collaborative remote work with higher quality and reflection time.
Third. Lead from trust. Bosses will have to direct and control less and lead more. If people are working at home, the ability to control and supervise is in the background. Therefore, the added value of the manager will come from his ability to build trust, remotely integrate teams and challenge new projects.
Fourth. Recruitment of professionals without geographical limitations. If many tasks can be done remotely, the professional’s physical location is no longer a limit. This will allow us to have specialists from any league in the world. There is already talk of the «gig economy», that is to say the one where companies will be able to have a significant percentage of qualified professionals (contractors in Anglo-Saxon terminology), with whom they are linked by reason of project, not by employment contract. In the UK, it is estimated that 75% of staff will be formed by this type of professionals.
Fifth. Rethink the physical space of the offices: fewer positions and more added value spaces. If a good part of the tasks can be done remotely and the person-to-person experience is desirable, the spaces will have to be designed to seek the experiential and support the priorities of the organization, not for repetitive tasks. Let us not forget that the costs of the facilities between 10 and 20 percent of the costs of many companies, so it will be necessary to take full advantage of the square meters.
Sixth. Organization of tasks due to space and time, not by subject areas. Work agendas will be organized around synchronous tasks (those that have to be performed by several in the same space and time unit) and asynchronous tasks those that can be performed by many in different time spaces. This will determine when you can work remotely and when you have to do it in person.
Seventh. Clarification of roles and «accountability». Historically, in Spain committees and endless meetings have been abused to make decisions. Remote work will Accelerate that, for each task, roles are identified and who does what is clarified: who or who performs the task, who makes the decision and responds for it, who should be consulted before taking it and who should be informed once taken.
Eighth. Elimination of unnecessary movements. Working remotely has shown us that it is not necessary to waste ”time by car, train or plane to hold an hour-long meeting. In all displacement it will be necessary to look for a sort of netting between the cost incurred and the benefit acquired
Nineth. Take care of the corporate culture. The risk of working remotely is that the company ceases to be visible in the day-to-day life of its workers, that it loses its sense of purpose, values and, ultimately, corporate culture. That is why it will be necessary to strengthen the network that each of the workers or groups of workers form and strengthen what is already called redarquía, compared to the traditional hierarchy.
Tenth. Robotization and artificial intelligence. All repetitive processes that can be automated will inevitably be. People will have to be either who knows how to program these robots, or who knows how to ask machines and interpret the data they provide us.
As well. These are, in my opinion, the pillars of future work. It is often said that Covid has accelerated the digitization process in the workplace by three months (the so-called digital work place), which would have taken many companies 5 years.
I personally believe that many of these things will happen yes or yes. Now between all of us we have two challenges: enhancing the positive aspects (especially flexibility) and avoiding the negative ones (loss of privacy, permanent connection). In that balance, there will be virtue.