I can still remember clearly when, back in 1998, several prominent, but obstinate, CEOs declared that the internet was a passing fad. Several even boasted that they did not know how to use email and delegated it to their secretaries.
Within a few years, however, very few of those executives were still in their leadership roles, and it wasn’t long before an inability to use email was not something a CEO shared proudly.
That memory came to mind as I listened to some very well-known executives express disdain for remote work over the past several weeks. Here were some of my favorite complaints:
- Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called remote work, “a pure negative.”
- WeWork CEO Sandeep Mathrani declared without any factual basis that, “those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home.”
- And finally, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon called remote work, “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.” This was just a few weeks before his company reported record highs in both revenue and profits in the first quarter of 2021.
It’s worth pointing out that the gentlemen above have substantial, long-term office space obligations. However, they should also understand that in a free market, supply and demand always win out in the end. Currently the demand curve for remote work opportunities is seeing the biggest shift, and some employees are even willing to quit their jobs to pursue remote opportunities.
Last month, I surveyed over 2,000 of my readers—including CEOs, department heads, managers and individual contributors—to learn about their remote work experiences. While 52 percent of respondents worked in an office every day before the pandemic, only two percent want to return to the office full-time. In fact, 68 percent of respondents clarified they want to work from home either most of the time, or every day, even after the pandemic ends.
After a year of proving that working from home can be highly effective, even in the middle of a global crisis, many employees and companies are contemplating what comes next. While remote work is not ideal for every employee, nor is it the right strategy for every company, the vast majority of employees will be looking for more flexibility in their work experience going forward.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that determining the future of the workplace is one of the most crucial strategic decisions organizational leaders have faced in years. It’s comparable in magnitude to those early days of the internet, when companies and leaders had to decide to either embrace or ignore the digital revolution.
It’s high time for companies to plant their flag and choose a workplace model, whether it’s fully in person, fully remote or a hybrid of both, so that they can properly support and communicate their chosen model.
Unfortunately, a significant percentage of companies have delayed announcing a plan or have even declined to take a stance. According to McKinsey and Company, 40 percent of employees claim their organizations have not announced their future workplace policies, and another 28 percent say their companies’ policies are vague. McKinsey also found this indecision is leading to greater levels of disengagement, anxiety and burnout.
We made it through 2020. Now, we must use 2021 to decide what the future of work will look like. That’s why I am excited to share I just released a new book this week on remote work, How To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace.
This book offers tactics, tools and strategies for working, managing and leading in remote organizations. It draws from our 14-year experience building a fully remote organization at Acceleration Partners and includes interviews with top CEOs from companies such as WD-40 and British Telecom Global.
How to Thrive in the Virtual Workplace shares insights from the remote employee, manager and leader perspectives, offering a blueprint any person or organization can use to make remote or flexible work successful, productive and fulfilling. Plus, it’s available until Sunday for just $0.99 in eBook in most countries.
Many employees have now experienced the benefits of remote and flexible work, and history has shown that it’s nearly impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube once it has been squeezed.
Offices won’t just disappear, and in-person work interactions aren’t going away. But employees’ desire for more flexibility isn’t going to fade either, and the companies that don’t chart a clear course forward, or who fight to return to the way things have always been done, may soon find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Quote of The Week
“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
– Wayne Gretzky