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Has office life changed forever?

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2020 has been a very challenging year, but it has also served as a catalyst for office life by driving remote working into the mainstream. Many of us in technology have been fans of remote working for many years but pre-2020 it was relatively rare to be totally remote. Chris Herd founded Firstbase to help companies make the switch. He has published a thought provoking list on office life and the future of work. You may not agree with every point, but it’s worth a read.

Where will Remote Working take us?

There are 20 points, so too many to cover, but here’s my quick summary:

  • The move to rural living and smaller cities is already happening. This change will accelerate. Belfast is a tiny city, but 2020 has allowed it enter centre stage.
  • Asynchronous work is hard and poorly understood. Employees require discipline to succeed and employers need to provide adequate tools and support.
  • Proper accommodation and nurturing for Diverse & Inclusive team members can revolutionise companies who are competing hard to attract and retain skilled employees. Think big.
  • I have been preaching about the need for employers to move to an ‘output focus’ for many years. Disengaged employees can often “look busy” or “act busy” in office life. Employers must shift their observation to output and outcomes. As an added bonus it creates a stronger culture.
  • Working Too Much leads to a negative and damaged Work-Life Balance. Lockdown has taught us that we need to get the balance right. There are no more excuses.
  • Community-Led SaaS is poorly understood. Great companies encourage great communities. If you have purpose and live it, you are probably already in your community – embrace it.
  • Remote visa programmes allow workers to do their jobs from anywhere. We can work with brilliant people from all over the world. The key to making this work is fair pay.
  • Written over Spoken is something I love. The ability to communicate via the written word is timeless.
Office life and remote working
PHOTO MIO JAPAN/Getty Images

What will office life look like by 2030?

I could write extensively about each aspect, but I’ll let Chris do his own talking. Read the material below carefully and give @chris_herd a follow. 

1 Rural Living: World-class people will move to smaller cities, have a lower cost of living & higher quality of life. These regions must innovate quickly to attract that wealth. Better schools, faster internet connections are a must. 

2 Asynchronous Work: Offices are instantaneous gratification distraction factories where synchronous work makes it impossible to get stuff done. Tools that enable asynchronous work are the most important thing globally remote teams need. A lot of startups will try to tackle this. 

3 Hobbie Renaissance: Remote working will lead to a rise in people participating in hobbies and activities which link them to people in their local community. This will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships which overcome societal issues of loneliness and isolation. 

4 Diversity & Inclusion: The most diverse and inclusive teams in history will emerge rapidly. Companies who embrace it have a first-mover advantage to attract great talent globally. Companies who don’t will lose their best people to their biggest competitors. 

5 Output focus: time will be replaced as the main KPI for judging performance by productivity and output. Great workers will be the ones who deliver what they promise consistently. Advancement decisions will be decided by capability rather than who you drink beer with after work. 

6 Private Equity: the hottest trend of the next decade for private equity will see them purchase companies, make them remote-first. The cost saving in real-estate at scale will be eye-watering. The productivity gains will be the final nail in the coffin for the office. 

7 Working Too Much: Companies worry that the workers won’t work enough when operating remotely. The opposite will be true and become a big problem. Remote workers burning out because they work too much will have to be addressed. 

8 Remote Retreats: purpose-built destinations that allow for entire companies to fly into a campus for a synchronous week. Likely staffed with facilitators and educators who train staff of how to maximize effectiveness. 

9 Life-Work Balance: The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them. Organizing your work around your life will be the first noticeable switch. People realizing they are more than there job will lead to a deeper purpose in other areas. 

10 Bulls1t Tasks: The need to pad out your 8 hour day will evaporate, replaced by clear tasks and responsibilities. Workers will do what needs to be done rather than wasting their trying to look busy with the rest of the office. 

11 Health & Wellbeing: A lack of commute will give workers 25 extra days a year to do other things. Workers will exploit the freedom they have to organize things more freely in their day. Afternoon runs, morning meditation, 2 things a lot of people I know now do.

12 Personal RPA: robotic process automation will transform work for individuals. No-code tools that enable workers to build bots that automate menial parts of their roles will be huge. 

13 Death of HQ: the office is dead but offices will persist. They’ll be used less frequently then hardly at all. Co-working, subscription clubs, will emerge that let workers who prefer that mode of work to operate from there. 

14 Remote Living: Work from anywhere RVs will become huge business. Associated business parks and services will spring up. This will happen even more rapidly as self-driving tech emerge. Expect a @Tesla product in this space.

15 Lifework balance: massive increases in part-time and freelance work. A recognition that we no longer have to sacrifice work for living, we can organize work around our lives.

16 Community-Led SaaS: as no-code continues to grow, tech is barely a barrier. Communities become the most important most a company has. 

17 Remote Visa: small nations coming together in order to attract remote workers at different stages of the year. Huge opportunity to synchronise education to enable families to be more fluid in their locations. 

18 Meeting Death: wasting 2 hours travelling to a meeting will end. The benefits of in-person are eroded by the benefits you get of not travelling. Conferences and quarterly networking events will become more important for cultivating in-person relationships. 

19 Personal choice: the smartest people I know personally are all planning to work remotely this decade. The most exciting companies I know personally all plan to hire remotely this decade. ~90% of the workforces we’ve spoken to never want to be in an office again full-time. 

20 Written over spoken: documentation is the unspoken superpower of remote teams. The most successful team members remotely will be great writers. Companies are searching for ways to do this more effectively. Tools that enable others to write better will explode.  

I believe that a future that fully supports remote working will do more to allow people to achieve their full potential than anything else. 2020 has changed office life forever.

You need to be very clear and comfortable with what you are going to “get good at” and crack on. In office life, being funny, presentable and “up for a pint” ain’t going to get you promoted any more.

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