Remote work is more than a trend. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible schedules and options to work from home were available at companies of all kinds. Now, after over a year of mandatory social distancing, we know more than ever about what kinds of work can be done remotely and how, and what kinds of work will always need to be done face to face. As offices begin to reopen across the globe, the question of where to work, and when, and how, has become unavoidable. What kinds of new workplaces will emerge in the future, and how can they empower employees to work to the best of their abilities as well as according to their needs?
For the most recent event in our C2C Navigators series on the future of work, C2C’s own Sabina Bhasin joined with Patti Althen and Rujul Pathak of Workday and Greg Sly of Verizon for a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges and opportunities of the changing workplace environment. The conversation touched on several key points, including some raised by community members during the open question and answer section. One theme that remained central to the discussion, however, was the position of the employee, and the necessity for management that centers the employee’s experience and autonomy.
The guests identified several values that they consider central to this management approach. One is “findability,” or the worker’s ability to find information, resources, or solutions to problems in the workplace, which Pathak noted is harder but especially important to facilitate for remote workers:
Another is empathy, which Sly described as a driver behind a complete cultural shift at Verizon. When work takes place at home, workers let their coworkers and their employers into their lives, including all the unseen labor that allows them to show up and fulfill the requirements of their positions on a daily basis. For Sly, seeing this labor made it clear that management standards need to be amenable to the continually shifting needs of employees with dynamic and demanding lives. Pathak and Althen wholeheartedly agreed with these sentiments:
The question of employee empowerment came up directly midway through the discussion. The guests from Workday brought up several strategies they have implemented on the policy level to foster employee empowerment, including facilitating what Pathak called a “feedback loop” between employees and clients, and instituting the “VIBE,” or “Value Inclusion Belonging and Equity” program, which Althen applied to different work scenarios:
Community members contributed multiple questions that advanced the discussion even further. One question about change in workplace standards along industry lines prompted a back-and-forth about new workplace solutions across the broader professional landscape:
Another question about the importance of diversity in a changing workplace environment gave Pathak the opportunity to revisit the VIBE program as part of a larger comment on the material and ethical considerations that come into play when trying to maintain diversity as a value even in a time of change and uncertainty throughout the workforce:
The future of work is still uncertain, and many companies still don’t know what their employees’ day-to-day lives will look like going into the coming year. Technology provides us with some solutions, but progressive management approaches will be more than necessary for companies who hope to continue to scale as these changes continue to come. Althen, Pathak, and Sly are staying optimistic. How do you feel? What does work look like for you in a world where telecommuting is becoming a new standard? Please reach out and let us know, and let us know what other kinds of discussions you’d like to be able to attend, and who you would want to be leading those conversations.