What’s Next? Hybrid? Remote? Everyone Back?

By: Brian McDonald
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[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Brian McDonald, President of MOR Associates.  Brian may be reached at brian@morassociates.com.]
 
As the virus is subsiding and employers across the United States look ahead to the recovery, what will the future of work look like? Will everyone return to work this fall? Will some people continue to work remotely? Will we end up with a hybrid work design with some workers on premise while others work from home?
 
Over the past three months MOR Associates has facilitated workshops with over 300 people to explore the trends that are likely to have long-range implications for the future of work across many employers. This article outlines the major trends and their likely implications if we project what’s just over the horizon.
 
MOR Associates believes there will be some far-ranging changes to the workplace as well as to how workers are deployed as a result of the dramatic pivot to work from home for many. Leaders need to think strategically about the future of their workplace and how work gets done to get out in front of these likely trends.
 
Trends Shaping the Future of Work
 
Many people working from home appreciated the increased flexibility and autonomy.
Despite all the challenges with mental health and home schooling, many workers have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home.  No longer having to commute for two or more hours a day for some people was a remarkable and beneficial change. Imagine getting ten hours a week of freed up time handed to you along with the opportunity to avoid the mental and emotional toll a long commute can exact. Being able to spend time with the family during the day was a gift for others. Having the ability to have breakfast with their children rather than rushing off to work in what could be a chaotic morning scene and then returning some nine or ten hours later.  As a result, many employees want to continue to have the ability to work remotely at least some of the time when the workplace recovers.
 
Technology’s Adoption Accelerates
Working from anywhere became a reality - It has been apparent for more than a few years that people can work from anywhere they are, on whatever device they have, whenever it is convenient for them. Yet there was considerable reluctance by many employers to consider, let alone endorse, people working remotely. There is evidence most people have been as productive and, in some cases, even more so working from home or wherever. Some people picked up their laptop and moved to another state.

The rapid adoption of remote instruction was a remarkable feat for faculty, those involved in digital education and the information technology staff. Will universities continue to adapt as they realize students also like the flexibility to attend class remotely some of the time?  Will universities allow for the flexibility for students to take classes remotely from other campuses and add these as credit courses to their transcript?
 
Telehealth along with telework have both taken off. Does a radiologist really need to come in to the office everyday to read the images that are perfectly clear with the right set up at home?
 
Attracting and Retaining Talent
Will employers create a competitive disadvantage if they don’t adopt policies enabling flexible work arrangements?  Millions of workers are planning to switch jobs after the pandemic. More than 40% of people who responded to MSFT’s Work Trend Index, a global survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, said they are considering leaving their employer this year.  Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey found that 25% of US employees expect to look for a new employer “once the threat of the pandemic has decreased.”
 
Never mind relocating for a job—now many people aren’t willing to accept an offer that requires them to work in an office full-time. In a new survey, more than one-third of workers say they have declined or would decline a job offer that required them to work full-time in an office or other worksite.

Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing - to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.
- Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft

If universities or health care systems are expecting everyone to return to work as it was before, will this rigidity put them at a serious disadvantage when it comes to retention or hiring in the future?


Space is at a Premium
Another significant issue for universities and health systems is the premium put on space.  As one chair of a medical department recently shared, “space is destiny.” Without the space to bring in new technology or set up a lab for a new faculty hire or space to grow, the future possibilities will be limited by this constraint. Recouping space as workers shift to hybrid or fully remote could be a huge incentive for leadership to embrace the trend toward flexibility.
 
Projecting Ahead: What Does the Next Evolution Look Like
Let’s entertain three different scenarios.

 

  1. The traditionalist insists or the work requires everyone back in person as soon as the situation allows.
  2. There is a willingness to develop a hybrid work system with some on premises and some remote.
  3. There are job functions that could be done entirely while working remotely.

If the work requires people to be 100% on premises there will be those staff who will be glad to return to this scenario while there will be other staff who are less enamored by this requirement. Job descriptions in the future may very well need to specify these expectations.
 
In the exploration of the future of work with the 300 plus people in MOR workshops there is an overwhelming interest in a hybrid work arrangement that allows for flexibility. There will likely be many different versions of hybrid as managers take into consideration the organization’s needs, the job requirements and the employee’s interests.
 
The long-term trends toward greater flexibility, increased autonomy and mobility are likely to continue to develop over the next few years as we see a dramatic change, if not a disruption, in what has been the traditional model for the way work is done.

In next week’s Tuesday Reading the focus will be on the implications of a hybrid work system and how could leaders address issues such as:

  • How will this shift to hybrid impact hiring and retaining the talent needed?
  • How will this work design influence team cohesion?
  • What will the implications be for inclusion or equity or diversity if some people are remote and others are on campus?
  • How will the manager’s role need to evolve to adapt to this new reality?
  • What will happen to the culture over time if many employees no longer come into the workplace?

 
To Be Continued….. What’s Next? Hybrid? Remote? Everyone Back?
Anticipating and Planning for What’s Next

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