Approximately 64% of American workers (or two-thirds of the workforce) worked from home at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic causing many to speculate about the future of work — the how, where, why, and meaning of it.
Even before the pandemic, the idea of spending hours commuting five days a week, away from your town, away from your community, away from the rest of your life, to sit in an office all day was outdated, says Daybase CEO and co-founder Joel Steinhaus.
At the same time, working from home hasn’t been the easiest. Not everyone has a reliable work-from-home set-up, and the distractions and demands of being at home can prevent us from effectively doing our jobs.
We founded Daybase to enable the hybrid workforce to have a better workday — solving the pain points of working from home while limiting some of our time-wasting commutes. (Details about a Daybase membership can be found here).
We like to say that Daybase is for when the office is too far and home is too close. And by extension, the Daybase blog is where we explore the potential of hybrid work — from the aspirational to the practical. Our editorial team doesn’t want to just speculate on the potential of hybrid work, we want to help shape it. And we want to be there with you as you shape it.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear from behavioral economists, business executives, heads of culture, and best-selling authors (to name a few). All are thought leaders helping shape the new landscape our generation is building.
We’ll start by exploring what will make the future of work work. Namely: autonomy, flexibility, intentionality, and productivity.
Autonomy — The truth is, the “modern” workplace hasn’t been all that modern, or worked for many of us for a long time. Take for example the mother who told Steinhaus, “If there had been a Daybase ten years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have left the workforce.” As Steinhaus says, she didn’t need a Daybase. She needed a more inclusive work culture that allowed for greater autonomy. We all do.
Flexibility — And we really mean it. “Work is a thing you do, not a place you go. We have to acknowledge the answer to flexibility has to be just that: flexibility,” says Sam Ford, the Executive Director of AccelerateKY, a nonprofit focused on connecting and accelerating innovators and entrepreneurs in the state of Kentucky. Ford is also a widely sought-after media innovation consultant with a fellowship at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism and a research associate at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies. Ford spends a lot of time thinking about the future, specifically the future of work and building up local communities. He's also someone who has been working remotely long before it was the new normal.
Now that there is a widespread demand for flexibility, Ford worries organizations might start defining “flexibility” with rigid restrictions. As someone who’s managed multiple teams with a mix of remote and hybrid staff, he explains that true flexibility means a hybrid model could be going into the office two days a week, or it could be going in every six weeks for a full week, and so on. “You have to take into consideration your worker and the work they do,” he says.
Intentionality — If we’re going to create massive shifts in the way we work, we have to be more intentional about things we used to take for granted. “Soft skills” like collaboration, checking-in, and communication will have to take the lead to maintain connections and keep up with demands on productivity, and asynchronous schedules.
“We need to start doubling down on the humanness,” says Blair Miller, a senior fellow at Yale University lecturing on “Aligning Profit and Purpose,” a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and advisor to many including The Rockefeller Foundation. Miller has dedicated her career to unlocking professional talent around the world. In her eyes, talent is equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not. At least it hasn’t been — until now.
As someone who has spent her career innovating in the human side of work, Miller predicts that as we explore different models of management, the leaders who rise to the top will be those who are developing high levels of empathetic intelligence and can integrate humanness into technology. “The skills of the future are not technical skills. Robots are going to do those. The skills of the future are making decisions in murky times. The human skills are the most important,” she says.
Productivity — We’re already in the process of redefining productivity, but through this process, we have to make sure not to fall back on lazy metrics of what constitutes “working hard.” A good example of this is the Seinfeld episode “The Caddy” when George Costanza leaves his car at work overnight to convince his bosses he’s pulling extra hours at the office. In reality, he’s away with his girlfriend. We all know George is lazy, but his plan works, and the attitude towards him in the office changes immediately. (Thanks Sam Ford for reminding us of this!)
In the era of choice, we’ll need to define productivity by our ability to do good work, not by the hours we’re at our desks. “Define clearly what the output expectations are for the role,” says Sarah Morgan, an active voice in the HR Twitterverse with a focus on BIPOC experiences, and the founder of BuzzARooney, a consultancy offering training and strategy development to cultivate inclusive and equitable workplace cultures. “When people know what their deliverables and deadlines are, they either rise to the occasion or they don’t. And if the person is delivering, why do we care where or when they’re working? Why are we so hung up on that? Downtime is downtime, loafing is loafing,” she says.
Do we think that adopting a hybrid work policy will immediately solve all of these issues? No. But we do see hybrid work as a tool to foster autonomy, flexibility, intentionality, and productivity in our workforce. And we’re committed to building this new era because like you, we live this.
We’re employees who want the choice to relocate to a new town to be closer to family, lower our cost of living, or enjoy a higher quality of life. We’re working parents who want to thrive, and don’t think that’s too much to ask for. We're responsible citizens who want to support local businesses, productively repurpose street-level retail spaces, and spend more time close to home. Luckily, we’ve tapped into the growing field of experts and thought-leaders who are helping make this a reality. You’ll be hearing from them, and from us, next week.
Thanks for reading this far. Now it’s your turn to do the talking. Let us know how hybrid work is working (or not working) for you. You can find us in all the usual places: Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.