As we move into the summer of 2020, it is clear from the chart below that COVID is here, in one way or another, for the long term and it will have a permanent impact on the future workforce, you, and your family.
Common questions in many of my recent Grayline Group Catalyst TALKS online discussions with employers and employees from around the globe include: Just what exactly is the future of work going forward in an era of COVID? And what will the evolution of work look like in a post-COVID world?
I’ll link and summarize a number of great pieces written on this below but I’ve been reframing the questions for myself: Of the things that we’re being forced to adapt, which of these new practices improve the old ways of doing business? Which should we keep and which should we toss going forward? What can we learn from history and from other disruptions – whether born of catastrophy or innovation – that have impacted the way we do business?
We have to rethink the spectrum of management standards – personnel, proximity, supply lines to name only a few – that used to be textbook but now deserve a hard examination of how (and if) they apply moving forward.
Some deep thought and analysis has already gone into the evolving normal.
(1) A team at CNBC discussed the 13 ways the Corona pandemic would change the way we work. It highlights everything from the role of the office, business travel, commercial buildings and medical screening at work among other topics.
(2) Entrepreneur Magazine had a thoughtful piece by John Rampton. He examined how the Coronavirus has changed our expectation of the future of work, highlighting everything from permanent flexibility to the status of in-person meetings to how we share employees and talent across sectors. The bottom line is that it will be “adaptable, agile and innovative companies that will thrive.”
(3) Global Workplace Analytics offered a thoughtful look at work at home after COVID-19. They predict not only will there be an increased pressure to work from home but also to prepare for future disasters, whether they be floods, tornadoes or power outages. They also cover one angle that people aren’t talking about– sustainability and the overall carbon footprint during COVID. To support their premise, they go into great detail and look at the math of what reduced business travel might mean to the workplace and the environment. It’s with checking out Kate Lister and her work.
(4) My own findings align with John’s piece in Entrepreneur. The central premise of my book Catalyst, (and the core of our mission at Grayline) is to examine the ways at which leadership and strategy can most effectively adapt to a rapidly changing environment, flattening the curves that challenges deliver.
The final thing I encourage you to consider is (1) what the imperatives (systemic, cultural, e.g.) that we need to keep in place after we’re done with this surge in COVID cases and (2) compare the list of past, less efficient business practice view through the lense of those imperatives. Doing so might provide a glimpse of the future workplace. In this piece written for Grayline Group, I suggest there are some parallels we can look to in history– most notably, the United States military after 9/11.
Prior to our invasion into Afghanistan, we spent 10-plus years trying to rethink the role of the United States military without an obvious threat from the Soviet Union. While we were not ready for a decentralized war in the desert of Iraq and Afghanistan, what we did have was a culture of powering down decisions to the lowest level of leadership. In that case, it was the junior officers and junior noncommissioned officers leading our forces on the ground. Over the next 20 years, the United States military attempted to institutionalize many of those successful practices. Unfortunately , we’re starting to see a return to a more hierarchical, top-down, less flexible approach. I fear we’re forgetting many of the great practices we adapted during our 20 years at war.
Going forward, business and government leaders have the opportunity to continue the best of what we adapted because of COVID and blend those lessons and products seamlessly with pre-COVID best practices. Combined in the right way, we can emerge with a new, innovative work landscape that allows us to be more effective, more productive, and deliver a better overall result, and experience for our employees and customers. If we think strategically about what to adapt, jettison and incorporate, we can deliver a better triple bottom line. The triple bottom line will allow us to conduct business better for people, better for our planet and better overall profits.
As a bonus, I’m sharing a recent interview from my latest Catalyst Talks on the future of work, looking at how we can involve more people in the process. I talked with Liza Rodewald of Instant Teams to talk about work and her own entrepreneurial journey as they built a tool to help companies build instant teams remotely as well as manage their efforts.
Liza Rodewald is a 4x entrepreneur and software engineer with over 16 years of technical experience. She has built multi-million dollar enterprise software for government and healthcare industries. Her passion for entrepreneurship came from her desire to have a more flexible lifestyle and lead her to advocate and shape the future of work for companies and workers.
Joseph Kopser is a serial entrepreneur and expert in energy and national security issues. Currently he serves as an Executive-in- Residence at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. In addition, he is President of Grayline after he co-founded and served as CEO of RideScout before it was acquired by Mercedes. He served in the U.S. Army for 20 years earning the Combat Action Badge, Army Ranger Tab and Bronze Star.
He is a graduate of West Point with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and also received a Masters from the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2013, he was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for his efforts in Energy and Transportation. In 2014, RideScout, won the U.S. DOT Data Innovation Award and co-authored the book, Catalyst. He is the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the CleanTX Foundation, an economic development and professional association for cleantech. Joseph is also co-founder of the non-profit USTomorrow focused on workforce readiness. Joseph’s focus is to help people adapt to the changing future of work.