Four Massive Changes to How We Think About Work

Flying home from a European trip on March 13th, 2020, I was mulling over the news about the new coronavirus coming to the U.S.—and more than a little concerned about the chest cold I had picked up traveling. Three days later, we closed all of our Fueled Collective locations due to the Governor’s order. I couldn’t possibly see the scope of the pandemic then, but I knew something big was afoot, and I had the responsibility to figure out what.

Just like me, every leader must consider how the pandemic will reshape the culture of work for the next 100 years because of four deep psychological changes the entire workforce has experienced simultaneously in 2020. 

1: Changes in our relationship with technology

Remember the days when people were uncomfortable on video conferences? Or when half the people could not get their video or sound to work? Ok, so this still happens way more than necessary, but, collectively, we have all accepted that this is a very productive way to communicate. The fear of technology has been replaced with the fear of not being in person. That is a BIG shift to occur in a brief 8 months!

2: Changes in our daily routines

Our routines have been completely upended. Work hours, family time, school schedules, sports schedules, and on and on. What’s important here is, a broad realization that remotely working has tremendous advantages, and some new conflicts: battle of the bandwidth, deciding which rooms to convert to offices, homeschooling our children, and quarantining. 

3: Changes in our views about productivity

Showing up early at work and leaving late was the universal expectation of a productive worker. While this thinking was losing ground as the rise of coworking locations across the globe skyrocketed during the last decade, companies and individuals realized the benefits of a truly distributed workforce for some teams. Fast forward to 2020, nearly 100% of the workforce has shifted to the home office in the span of one week, and we have seen massive productivity gains for some, but not all, employees in companies all across the globe.

4: Changes in our needs to collaborate

The last, and possibly the most important change, is rooted in three questions: 

  • “When do we need to be in person?”
  • “Do we still need an office?”
  • “Does the office still have the same features?” 

Beyond the concerns of physical space, are questions about what needs to happen where, and why. These questions will lead us to what many believe will be a fundamental shift in the way we organize our days, weeks, months, and quarters. This will have a profound impact on the culture of our businesses and the shape they take going forward.

The takeaway

These four cultural shifts in how we think about work will push us into a functional approach to our schedules. The benefits of remote work are significant for your employees and their life/work balance, and they may not want to come back to the office—at least fulltime. That’s ok, the advantages to the company are significant:

  • Increased productivity
  • Happy, more-balanced employees
  • Lower real estate costs

Therefore, a functional approach to a new work paradigm for larger companies (those with 50+ employees) will include home offices, a smaller “HQ” office space, and a third place for their employees. The latter is very different from the reasons people went to Starbucks or coworking spaces in the past. 

These new third spaces will include a place where a company might have: 

  • Dedicated meeting room
  • Flexible memberships for the employees who sometimes need to get out of the office
  • Geographic distribution of the team, and the flexibility to adapt to any crises 

As a leader, all of this comes back to creating and maintaining culture in this new  functional approach. You and your team crave to be together sometimes, but no longer all the time. Your job is to find new ways to work, meet, gather, and collaborate somewhere between the “HQ” office and the home office. As you do your planning, feel free to download our free “Functional Plan” worksheet to help you chart a new work strategy.

Download our Free Functional Plan