It’s not where you work

Welcome to 2021. This is the international year of getting excited about working outside of offices.

Seeing the light

Some people may have noticed that working outside of offices has a long heritage, one that has been accelerating in recent years with the invention of the laptop, the mobile phone, the internet, the smart phone and cloud services. Over five decades, we have radically untethered work from the office.

Sadly, it took the public health restrictions of a global pandemic for some executives to notice the change.

For the last 50 years, where you work has been irrelevant. What has become increasingly important in that period are the work and life needs of employees and the demands of the work to be done.

Your fancy office building, whether owned or leased, is a sunk cost. Stop letting it dictate your decisions.

The shortcomings of your management team and problems in your culture have to be fixed. Demanding employees are at their desk every Monday at 9am is not an answer to your cultural issues. Again this is about your organisational shortcomings and not something you need to force on your workers to fix.

All the diverse, talented and magical employees you have been struggling to retain will thank you. All the parents, the carers, the young and the older will thank you. Actually everyone will thank you.

Offices aren’t over. They are just part of the mix. Co-working isn’t the future. It is part of the mix. Much of our work and many of our employees need an office. We can’t expect every home is suitable for the work. However, it is likely the coming round of real estate decisions and the inevitable pressure for efficiency will shape the supply of offices.

Work is not remote. It is where it needs to be. Work is not hybrid. It gets done how it needs to be done.

None of this depends on your technology partner for productivity solutions, collaboration, or video conferencing. All the basics of that technology has been in place for years. We have only just started to use all this technology and realise its potential. The future evolution of work depends on how well we leverage these tools in the mix, but they are only part of how work is changing.

Work is irrevocably flexible. It wasn’t been done exclusively in the office before the pandemic. Go ask the coffee shop owners around your office about the laptops, the phone calls and the meetings that graced their tables. Better yet go ask your clients about how good it was that your team could work flexibly with them when and where it mattered for your clients.

Work existed before offices. Work is more flexible than ever. Let the flexibility suit the work and not the office. It’s time to live in 2021.

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