“Change is the only constant, and it has never been truer than it is today” Simon Elliot FIoD, Managing Partner, 4xi

Based in San Francisco, IoD Fellow Simon Elliot, managing partner of boutique Global Consulting firm 4xi talks about the future of work, and how we’ll work tomorrow.

Future of Work

In San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, change has been the driver, a fuel for decades, as people and organizations entire focus has been to disrupt the status quo and challenge the paradigms of today while shaping the pathway to the future. With over 200 Venture Capital firms investing over $2 Billion every year, California is synonymous with invention and progress.

Elliot moved from the UK thirteen years ago and now calls San Francisco and the Bay Area home.

Organizations from all sectors and industries are still trying to work out what the future holds – what will it look like? Well, no one really knows but here are some clues Elliot shares from his own experiences:

Accelerators of change

Unfortunately, catastrophe is often the catalyst and an accelerator of change, and we are experiencing this in the wake of the global pandemic. We have seen the impact on the future of work – its no longer about when we’ll return to normal, but more about what will the new normal look like.

Pre-pandemic, underlying fault lines existed: pressure on bricks and mortar retail, employees disenfranchised with pointless, arduous, and often expensive commutes. The importance of technology and connectivity, of collaboration, and community. The Gig Economy has been talked about for many years, as has flexible and remote working. Flexibility, convenience, and choice are not just terms associated with work but in every aspect of our lives today. Issues that have risen to the top include wellness and wellbeing, mental health, loneliness, hiring challenges, personal flexibility.

Employees have more choice than ever before

Thankfully for most, long gone are the days of a 2-hour commute each way, a cubicle in an office with no window, a stale sandwich with the crusts curled up and a cold cup of coffee to swill it down with, and the long commute back home, Monday to Friday, 48 weeks a year.

Today, for some, workers can be located almost anywhere, where they choose to be, at home, co-working, but also where the catchment of where they live have become greater too. Across the United States, New York, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley for example are reporting an exodus from these expensive cities to less costly locations like Florida and Texas where you can get twice the property, often for a third of the price.  The key is employees now have the power to choose.

We’ve proven we can work remotely

We now know that “heads down” work can be done anywhere and probably done more efficiently in a place/space with fewer distractions. The purpose of physical places of work has shifted dramatically over the past 2 years. Companies are struggling with balancing the work from home and in-office equation.  They need to create a compelling environment and reasons to collaborate and connect.

We’ve spent the time hunkered down for the most part, we’ve worked out that video conferencing is an effective method of communication, and a better use of time than spending hours in a car, on a train or flying from one side of the country to another, never mind the cost, time, and carbon footprint we use to expend.

“The range of return-to-work strategies has been been well covered as have the limited levels of success.”
Simon Elliot

Magnetization of the physical place

Transforming spaces into places where people choose to be has become a priority for organizations wanting their employees to return to work. This is where Experience Design has become more important than ever before – not just a place of work, or a token ping pong table in the corner, but a genuine commitment and investment in creating a magnetized experience and how it makes their employees feel.

The new workplace experience needs to be designed beyond the physical place, but what goes on inside it – what are the attractions you create, the opportunities for interaction, connectivity, maybe even fun? What are the technologies that can be adopted to facilitate this new, more transient community? How can you activate your spaces and turn them into places where people choose to be?

Did people become more empathetic?

With all the various points of personal and professional pain, with the loss, isolation, shutdowns, and suffering on various levels, did we all of a sudden become more considerate and empathetic towards others? Do clients understand financial pain more today? Do people understand that workers need to earn a proper living wage? Do they care more about things that aren’t necessarily occurring in their own backyard?

Our planet and future generations

As the impact of centuries of industrialization and human abuse of our planet has become more visible and apparent, today’s youth are experiencing what could easily be termed a pandemic of anxiousness. What can we do in business, and as leaders, and what contribution and impact can we drive to make a real difference and secure our planet for future generations to come?

People Matter, Experience Matters

Culture as a Strategy (CaaS) is a new buzz word. We’ve been talking about it for decades, but today its more critical than ever to make sure your organization is connected to your people.  This is not only an employee handbook, or manual, not just an onboarding process, or annual review, but understanding how your workforce really feels, how their work experience makes them feel, and what impact does that have on your top line, bottom line, your loyalty, and retention.

Designing and implementing a people-first strategy is an absolute imperative for all organizations, large or small, no matter your industry or sector.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
Dr Suess

Investment and Materiality

There are not many (if any) CEOs who would say their people are not important. There are not many CFOs who’ll say that money isn’t important, and of course there are no CXOs that will say the experience isn’t important, but one thing to potentially satisfy all three is the question of investment and materiality.

How much does employee turnover cost your organization? What value is it to you to have engaged and motivated employees to excel at new customer acquisitions and retention? What value is it to have an enthusiastic workforce fueling enthusiastic customers? What are the upsides to your top and bottom line? Then consider your overall payroll costs, including salaries and benefits.

So, what do you come up with? How much of an investment would it take to access the potential returns? Is it $1 per employee per day? $2, $5, $10 or more? AND, how material is that investment to your organization versus the rewards?

Whatever the answer to this puzzle is for your organization, things have changed, changed forever, the question is, are you ready to change them for GOOD?

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