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What will going to work look like in 2021?

Top 5 tips from the Tech Giants on new ways of working, heard at Web Summit 2020

I’ve just spent 3 days listening to lots of different speakers at the Lisbon Web Summit 2020. As the Wall Street Journal said, it’s where ‘the giants of the web assemble’. 

This is an event we attend to hear the latest thought leadership from global tech leaders, and hear pitches from start-ups from all over the world. When listening to the speakers, it struck me that they all discussed how working from home becoming mandatory overnight changed everything, and some gave their own thoughts and tips around keeping communications and culture alive. 

I thought it would be useful to share…

Will we all go back to working 9 to 5?

Will we ever get back to 9 to 5, in an office? In short, no. Most agreed that will never happen, and if you try to enforce it people won’t want to work for you. Employees have now all experienced the benefits of WFH, less commute time, more family time, with higher productivity. Employers can benefit from fewer overheads and recruiting globally. However, most surveys have shown that around 70% of people do want a hybrid model, a mix of at home and in the office. Most agreed this is the likely outcome moving into 2021.

How can we replace office interaction?

How do you replace those random interactions in the elevator or hallway? How can you replicate a team planning meeting? Most of the tech CEOs agreed that despite the tools we have to do this online, that you just cannot replace in person experiences, and the technology isn’t yet there to adequately do that either. They all envisaged a future where teams will come together in person to collaborate when they need to, but predominantly work from home otherwise.

What will office space look like in 2021?

What will the offices of 2021 actually look like? The office needs to have a transformed function. It will now be a place for collaboration, ideation, and socializing. So space will need to look and feel differently to rows of desks….what ‘going to work’ means has changed forever. Businesses will need to evaluate what real estate they have, reconfigure it, and make it work for it’s new purpose.

And make it be a destination that people want to visit.

How do we measure staff efficiency? 

Many of the speakers talked about how the pandemic has pushed employers to really focus on staff efficiency and output and how they measure it. Because sitting at your desk for 9 hours doesn’t actually mean output – and it never did. Individuals need to know what ‘good’ looks like for their role, and it has to be measurable. We want our teams to have a flexible schedule to work around family, children, and caregiving so we need to think differently now. 

What’s the best way to manage company communications now?

Key messages need to be repeated over and over by the leadership, as people WfH will miss stuff. They are only getting information through one medium – their screen! They need more reassurance than ever before about strategy, purpose, and direction. IM is predominantly being used for all staff and departmental communications.

So, how do you run an all-hands now? It’s nigh on impossible to have interaction when there are so many people. One tip is to use IM for this during the meeting; you can ask all department leaders to post what they are most proud of in the chat, which will lead to a stream of positivity, allowing everyone to comment and participate. One company CEO has moved of their ‘all hands’ to be pre-recorded now, so people can listen in their own time, recognizing that this is the kind of content people might consume while multi-tasking at home.

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