Can we please stop calling it “The Future of Work?”

Greg Materdomini, Head of Sales, Americas at spaceOS

When I search for “The Future of Work”, Google retrieves 3 million organic results, and pages of PPC Google Ads. That is an unfathomable number of articles, information, and opinions based on the current state-of-affairs or an attempt to look into a crystal ball.

Everything from pandemics, Millennials, digital transformation, and office design come up in a way to articulate and contextualize what the future will look like.  COVID has disrupted the short term and accelerated what was already underway for the future. Scaling remote work and the adoption of digitization and automated technologies have already weaved their way into our corporate fabric.  But why are we calling it the Future of Work, when we have talked about it for many years already and the future seems to have already arrived?

According to a recent study by McKinsey and Company of 800 executives since the pandemic arrived, 85% of companies have accelerated digitization of employee interaction and collaboration. There have been hundreds of surveys like this one proving what we seem to already know. Allow me to summarize the 3 million articles on the “Future of Work” in a few sentences.

Workplace density will decrease, satellite offices will grow in popularity, and office ping pong tables will be replaced with sanitation and temperature stations. Most of the workforce will work from places outside of the office 2+ days per week. New roles will be added to in-office maintenance, remote work operations & HR, thus expanding the talent pool globally. The emergence of workplace technology will soar as operators need to immediately implement and organize ways to manage a mobile and consultant dominated workforce while still maintaining employee collaboration and culture.

Intelligent technologies will have far-reaching implications. Companies that move too slow may stymie competitiveness.  Move too fast and they can create unnecessary operational complexities. Implementing the right mix of technology will enable better user experiences which make the workplace more enjoyable while improving overall performance. Picking new technology is often the easiest part.  The harder part is introducing it to employees. “Just as marketing managers carefully plan the research through which they will gather critical product information, implementation managers must develop an iterative, almost accordion-like framework to guide decisions about when and how to collect needed information from all groups affected by an innovation.” (Leonard-Barton, 1985)

If there has ever been a time to implement technology that improves employee performance, enhances the tenant experience, builds community, and streamlines workflows, that time was yesterday. New technology requires a supportive infrastructure and the allocation of scarce resources for preparing the transition.  Companies should not only be focused on better technology, but they need to create a culture that is flexible enough to adjust, adapt, and learn continuously.  To me, that is the “Future of Work.”

Citation: Leonard-Barton, Dorothy November 1985.  Harvard Business Review “Implementing New Technology” Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1985/11/implementing-new-technology