Is the virus the final disruption of the concept of work as we know it?

A crisis unravels before our eyes, where we all together are both the directors and the actors. Our collective actions will decide the journey forward, which will be in the books written on the topic and taught to our grandchildren. History will prove whether the fears for the virus was over- or underestimated, and whether the economic consequences following those fears when everyone runs towards the exit at the same time will be the bigger burden to overcome for the world as a whole.

Instead of adding to the dystopia or attempting to come up with a clear opinion on the above – I’m rather thinking that there are interesting meta-processes potentially set to change and transform our societies for a much longer time than the direct consequences from the virus.

The virus has made remote working the new normal for large groups of people. This in order to contain the virus and not contribute to unnecessary spreading. The maturity for using technology to collaborate cross locations and borders is increasing dramatically by the hour across many traditional organisations and industries, stretching far beyond the usual likes of modern tech companies, creatives and young startups.

There has been discussions on how the concept of work as a destination is being percieved as more and more obsolete by younger generations, and the benefits of freeing up the workforce from the office spaces for quite some time now. The technology is also there since long and is also being utilized by many of the workers to manage their personal lives. However the leadership and governance structures has not been on par in many organisations. Thus, up to now the vast majority of workers still spend time working at a set destination that might or might not be optimal for them, during times of the day where they might or might not be at their respective productive peaks, and where the office in itself rarely is used more than during a small portion of the day, at what time the home is left unutilized instead. Work continues to be seen as much as a destination as it is a task or a value.

Even though we could have wished for a more pleasant driver behind it, this temporary disruption of the concept of work might prove to be just what was needed in order to push organisations to dare take the next step around collaboration and distributed workforce.

Just think about it – from both business, people, society as a whole, and not to forget sustainability-perspectives a new paradigm around workforce with a focus on value creation rather than presence does have its clear upsides. Of course there will be challenges, and of course it’s not either – or. But some obvious benefits that pops up:

  • Higher productivity by being able to work at individualized times and locations could spur creativity and increase self-leadership abilities, at the same time decreasing stress levels when all pieces of the life-puzzle matches together better.
  • Better possibilities for employers to attract and source the right talent as they now operate on a global market, increasing both levels of specialization, intelligence, market presence and cultural diversity in the organisation.
  • Improved sustainability through better allocation and distribution of assets, as physical infrastructure will not need to be dimensioned for two short peaks over the day, but can be more effective in their utilization. Same goes for office spaces, which could have focus on quality rather than volume.
  • Similarly, societies offering different qualities of life can be reinvigorated when the necessity for every intellectual worker to live in a big city is decreasing. Also adding on to quality of life and sustainability by easing the pressure on big cities and offering new business opportunities across whole countries.

Being able to lead with focus on trust and value rather than time, as well as bridging the physical distance in order to capture the benefits from a distributed workforce, might just moved up the ladder as some of most important leadership traits of tomorrow.

Now stay safe and remember that it’s only when the tide goes out you discover who’s been swimming naked.

This article was also published on Linkedin here.

Christoffer Vollmer

Leader, Consultant, Futurist & Advisor with more than 20 years experience from Strategy, Marketing, CX, Business Transformation & Tech.