A Defining Year
Will remote and hybrid work stay or go?
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I was supposed to publish last week, but my kids got chickenpox, and I could not write and complete the publishing process as I usually do. Life got in the way.
But thank you all for the positive feedback on my three AI articles. Seeing them being shared across the world wide web has brought me great happiness.
2023 will undoubtedly be a year in which we will be talking more about AI. Depending on how you look at it, I was either ahead of the curve in my September article or completely wrong. (I choose the former... lol)
"But does it mean that the trend is dead? No, I don't think so. It's starting to resurface, although not as intensely as before. But it will gradually pick up momentum again. The pandemic will be just a small dip in the AI hype curve, and we will soon return to pre-pandemic levels."
AI has indeed picked up momentum again, and we will be discussing it from both a practical and philosophical perspective several times throughout the year.
But that's a topic for another day. Today, let's talk about the good old topic of remote work, which I've written about more than any other topic in the almost two years I've been writing here.
Last year, I wrote about remote vs. office work from two different angles: "Get Back to the Office" and "Never Ever Go Back to the Office". I also wrote about building culture while remote and a practical guide to working in a hybrid world.
"But even three years after we were all suddenly thrown into remote work, I still get questions about whether "remote work is really a thing" and "how to work in a hybrid model." So, I thought it was worth revisiting the topic once again."
Anectodaly there are still a lot of companies that haven't yet decided how they will work. Sure, there might be a document somewhere around that they work in a hybrid model, but they haven't thought it through and made no deliberate efforts to take a stance.
When hiring, they default to "it's flexible, but you probably need to be here a couple of days" without defining it further. It seems to be working...ok? But from my perspective, there's a lot to gain by making a deliberate effort around how and where you work.
Or, to put it more bluntly;
Define your goddamn workplace strategy.
And think it through from the ground and up.
I know it's hard to ignore that we are used to working in an office because we have spent the last 100 years or so working there.
But do we need to?
What if you started with a blank slate?
What would that look like?
When advising companies on how to do this, I've always recommended they build with a remote-first mindset. This means settings structures that allow anyone to work from anywhere because if you do that, you have a great foundation to stand on, even if you choose to have people in the office one or several days a week.
This is especially important if you have a company or team distributed across several locations, which many of us have. They might be at the office; it just happens that the office is elsewhere.
Culture and productivity
Before summer, there was a lot of talk about the impossible task of building a culture while remote. Throughout the fall, the sentiment changed, perhaps to better reflect the current landscape, and the current view is that productivity suffers.
We've seen Elon Musk first demanding everyone back to the office, then revert the decision. And we've seen articles like this one explaining managers' and employees' different views on remote work and the mental toll it takes.
When fostering productivity in a remote workplace, the key is to ignore where people work and focus on overarching productivity by leading with intention and outcome. By shifting the focus away from physical location and towards results, you can create a workplace culture that values and rewards productivity, no matter where it comes from.
By providing structure and clear expectations, you can help eliminate distractions and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Make sure everyone stays connected and informed by keeping an open line of communication through town halls, Slack, and overdo it. Utilize tools such as Miro, Notion, and Almanac to keep track of progress and work together from afar.
Leading with intention and outcome means setting clear and achievable goals. Identify what's most important, whether that's project deadlines, sales goals, or customer satisfaction, and make sure everyone is working towards the same objectives. You don’t have to define how people should work, but you should define what they should work towards, the common goal or objective.
And don't forget to celebrate successes and give credit where it's due! Recognize your team's hard work and achievements! This helps create a culture that values and rewards productivity, no matter where it originates.
(And writing all of this, I realize that this might require a separate post…)
But the sentiment around productivity will probably continue to linger for a while, especially as companies talk more about productivity and efficiency. And it will be a defining year for companies worldwide. As the workforce, for now, is still in demand, they can still demand our organization to cater to their needs, but will it stay that way?
Will we continue to progress forward and realize that work can, for many people, be done everywhere, or will we try to revert back to the old ways of working?
Let me know in the comments what you think!