The Coming Work-Life Rebalance

We are in a pivotal moment. Hybrid work is not only changing how we work, but also how we live. Host Melanie Green explores this fundamental work-life rebalance. We hear from Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase, who believes that this moment in time is an opportunity to empower a billion people to access a better work-life balance. Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics sees hybrid work changing top-down management to become more democratic.

PODCAST | 20m
December 15, 2021
S4:Ep7

 

Executive summary

As we reshape the future of work, we have an opportunity to transform our quality of life. So, what will the future look like?

Featured voices

Chris Herd
Founder and CEO
Firstbase

Grace Lordan
Associate Professor in Behavioral Science, London School of Economics
Founding Director, Inclusion Initiative at the London School of Economics

Melanie Green (host):

When I was a kid, I loved watching TV shows about the future: Star Trek Next Generation, maybe even the odd rerun of the Jetsons. Now things have kind of changed. It feels like we’re not watching the future; we’re living it. We are living through this fundamental change in how we work: remote work, hybrid work, flex work. We’re realizing all the possibilities of working differently: the tech that’s accelerated along with our ideas about when and how we work. The future has arrived. So where to from here? We’re going to explore those uncharted horizons today. I’m Melanie Green. This is Remote Works, an original podcast by Citrix. Today, in Episode 7 of our hybrid survival guide, I’m going to introduce you to two big thinkers on the work stage. Each has their own take on how far we’ve come in a short time and the spillover that will affect every aspect of our work life: corporate structure, diversity, and work life balance. We’ll also have a quick look back at past seasons of Remote Works to see how dramatically work has changed in a short time. But first, I want to offer you a little proof that we are in fact living in the future. Back in 1964, sci fi legend Arthur C. Clarke predicted that in the future we could be in constant contact with anyone in the world. It was thanks to the invention of the communications satellite. Clarke predicted that businesspeople from Haiti to Bali would be connecting with each other instantaneously. He totally nailed it. But that’s not surprising. Arthur C. Clarke was always ahead of the curve. I mean, the guy co-wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey. And his vision of a beach in Bali as a hybrid workspace is an idea that I can definitely get behind. So yeah, Arthur C. Clarke, your future has arrived. Collaboration is a virtual experience and our work has more flexibility than ever before. So where is this future taking us? What’s the future of the future? Grace Lordan has an answer to those questions. She says we are entering an age in which we will have more control over our lives than ever before. And that is having a big impact on how we work together, and even in how our companies are structured. Grace is an associate professor in behavioral science at the London School of Economics, and the author of Think Big: Take Small Steps And Build The Future You Want.

A grand experiment on a global scale

Grace Lordan:

I think more kind of on a global scale, what happened was we were part of a grand experiment. And at the moment we're in this transition phase, where depending on how loud the voice is, it's going to shape the preferences of where the organization actually goes.

Melanie Green (host):

So you've used this phrase, negotiating phase when it comes to the ways that we work. Can you tell me a bit about what that means?

“Negotiation” phase of work

Grace Lordan:

Yeah. So I see it as a negotiation. So I think if we were back in the 1930s or the 1940s, the top would decide, right? So there's kind of this tone from the top, the manager decides, and ultimately you do what the manager says; command and control, show up for work or lose your job. And now I think particularly for professional workers where the war on talent is high, there's a much bigger negotiation phase. So we're seeing resignations, we're seeing employee activism and we're seeing people trying to push their employers into different modes of working.

Melanie Green (host):

So, that is pretty exciting. For a lot of us, there’s a work-life balancing going on. The question is though, what will that look like going forward?

Grace Lordan:

I see us in a transition phase in technology at the moment. So I think for the next five, even a decade, we're going to see more advanced technologies rapidly coming on stream. They are continuing to mold and shape the way that we work and I think one of the things that I'm kind of predicting is that we will see over time kind of a polarization of companies, some that are offering really good tech in order to work at home, really good opportunities to be autonomous, and those that are not.

Melanie Green (host):

Grace, what does the future of hybrid work look like in your mind? Could you give me a few specific examples about how you think it might evolve?

Virtual reality and the evolution of hybrid work

Grace Lordan:

You know,I'm a big virtual reality fan and I've had the pleasure of going to a few conferences during Covid through virtual reality. And I see that more coming into our workplace where we get to be in spaces with our colleagues, we get to kind of drink coffee with our colleagues as if we were actually physically with them without having to be actually there. And I think, you know, one of the big gains from that, which is what we've lost during Covid, is body language. So, you know, we're talking remotely now, so I only see you from your shoulders up. So it's hard to get a read on how you're feeling. I don't know whether your legs are bored and they're dancing out of the room. And I think that virtual reality will actually give us that. And for me, if in 10 years time I could wake up in the morning and go somewhere that isn't actually, you know, London to work with my colleagues who are all based in London or perhaps they're around the world, that would be amazing. And I think the technology is there. I think it's expensive. And I think, you know, during the transition phase, we will see the companies that have, you know, a lot of cash in their balance sheets, being able to afford to give this technology to people. It will become an amenity in the war on talent, but eventually like all technologies, it will become cheap. But I think ultimately we will work virtually at home in much more comfort than we're doing when we're logging on to Zoom, Teams or whatever platform your employer has, It will be much more exciting for us.

Melanie Green (host):

Grace Lordan’s vision of the future has got me thinking back to those old TV shows -- imagine getting up and going to work on a holodeck. Those ideas about the future of tech are always exciting but Grace has more ideas about the future of hybrid work, like about how the very makeup of our companies will change.

Grace Lordan:

So, you know, I think if I go and I talk to my niece who's 21 and I asked her what a management structure looks like, it looks flat. So in no way does she see the pyramid that the people who are the top of the organizations still actually see. I think we're moving towards that. So, whereas before, if I were a manager at the London School of Economics, I would just come in and I would tell people what to do. They would go and do it. I would make a judgment whether or not it's good. And then they will go and correct what I wanted them to correct. Now I go into the London School of Economics and I listen to what my team has to say, what they want to work on. I listen to their feedback on me as an individual and sometimes it pinches, and also feedback on my own work. And that actually helps me move ahead. You know, I don't do that because it's trendy. I think to survive in education, in a sector that's very competitive in manufacturing, in technology, in finance, you have to be listening to diverse people around the table. And I think as a leader, we probably in the future need less ego. And we're on the way to that. You can kind of see people who have less ego coming on stream. And more than that, leaders who are willing to listen, actively listen to the voices around the table and bring those ideas together in a way that it's almost a super idea. So they're listening to their team and their team are giving them a gift of information. And that information comes together to be much more creative, much more innovative, and to assess risks better than we've done in the past.

Melanie Green (host):

The pandemic gave so many people more time to ruminate on what's really important to them in their life. So what do you think people's relationship to work will be like in the future?

Investing in ourselves

Grace Lordan:

So, you know, if there's a legacy from Covid, I think it's going to be that people have figured out that they were missing out by not being at family occasions, that they were missing out by not spending time, you know, going to the gym and that perhaps their health is in worse shape than it actually could be if they were investing in themselves and they’re making those adjustments. I think for some people they will stick and I think for others, they won't. But I do think they will stick for enough people that we have a legacy of the pandemic that's ultimately positive when it comes to work life balance.

Melanie Green (host):

Along with being an associate professor in behavioral science at the London School of Economics, Grace Lordan is the founding director of the Inclusion Initiative at the school, which aims to create inclusive leaders and work environments. I asked her where we’re headed when it comes to DEI: diversity, equity and inclusion.

Grace Lordan:

I hope we're moving to a place where people actually realize that diversity isn't just about HR or about what we think should be done as a society, but that we're absolutely missing out by not having diverse people around tables. You know, whether it's technology, they're creating products for lots of people across the globe, or whether it's companies that are just B to B businesses and they just need to be more creative. Having diversity around the table is good for business only if you have inclusion.

Melanie Green (host):

And Grace has a lot to say about the E in DEI: equity. She says companies should be looking to hire people from a broad range of experience and educational background, not just Ivy League graduates. And she says equity is also about enabling people to do their jobs properly.

Grace Lordan:

Again, I think we've a really narrow version of who we think can actually do jobs well. And if there are segments of society who have had lower investments as kids, global companies can rectify that, you know, later on, upstream. It is true that we don't have too much evidence yet to show that if I invest in adults, they're able to develop skills at fast rates. And that's because we don't often invest in adults and allow them to develop skills at fast rates in a way that goes beyond apprentices and basic programs. So again, I think that there's the road for global companies there, really disrupting what they think good looks like. And for the rest of the E, identifying barriers and investing in actually breaking down those barriers in ways that we haven't done before.

Melanie Green (host):

I’m fascinated by Grace’s macro view of the work world, and how she sees it evolving. She shared some thoughts about how the work week could change.

Progress means moving beyond the status quo

Grace Lordan:

I mean I think again, I kind of divide the companies into the ones that cling to the status quo who are more status quo biased, and the ones that will be just more future moving. And I think the future moving companies will move towards weeks where you have core hours that you have to come in and be with your team. It might be a day. It might be two days or it might be just for two hours every day and then give people autonomy over how they actually use their time and ultimately move away from presenteeism and thinking about outputs. You know, so my team members often say to me, how many days do I have to be in? How many hours do I have to be in? And I always say to them, actually, I don't really care. So if you manage to get the output done in three days, you should take Thursday and Friday off. You know, that’s great for you. If you find that you're overloaded, we should have a conversation about it.

Melanie Green (host):

Your book is about people laying down the building blocks right now for a future that they want later. How can we do that on a large scale? When we think about sort of the world of work?

Grace Lordan:

So I think if you kind of, you know, if you imagine yourself in the future, I always say the first thing to do is just think about what if it all worked out, because you know, people are so full of self-doubt and this might happen and I can't afford it, and you know, it just, nothing ever works out for me. So strip all of that away and think, “What if it all worked out, what is absolutely amazing look like for you?” And then take a step back and say, okay, when I'm being that amazing person and I'm going about my Monday to Friday, what are the tasks that I'm doing at that Monday to Friday, and now let's embed small steps that get you to practice those tasks. I also talk a bit about building resilience because one of the most interesting things that I've only discovered recently, even though I think it's been known for quite a while, is that people who really love their jobs are the ones who are much more likely to burn out. So again, if we're thinking big and we're going to be very ambitious, we need to also at the same time, manage our wellbeing and make sure that we're not depleting our resilience reserves as we go through the journey.

Melanie Green (host):

Grace Lordan mentions a word that seems to come up a lot: resilience. We’ve talked about it again and again on Remote Works. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights from our past seasons.

We’ve come a long way in a short time

Ron Guerrier:

“And a boxer once said, everyone has a plan until they're punched in the mouth. And I would say mother nature punched us in the mouth”.

Melanie Green (host):

We looked at the innovation that came out of all the upheaval, from entire state departments going home to work practically overnight, to orchestras learning how to make music together while being apart.

Donovan Seidle:

I wrote myself sort of a modified arrangement of this variation and played all the parts that I needed in order to be music for her all the way through.

Melanie Green (host):

It was chaotic but we learned a lot in a short time. We became more focused on the importance of innovations in technology to keep us secure and connected.

Al Taylor:

And as an IT industry, the momentum that we've gained now, I don't see that slowing down. I think if anything, people have really begun to realize the value of innovation and the value of connectivity in these scenarios.

Melanie Green (host):

And some of us learned the hard way what burnout looks like.

Lauren:

I didn't respect myself and my boundaries and my limits. I was tired.

Melanie Green (host):

And that there’s no better time to look at our own wellbeing.

Jennifer Moss:

One of the best ways for us to check in constantly in on ourselves is to make sure we're matching up to the priorities we're setting and understanding that if we do let those other priorities go, everything will be fine.

Melanie Green (host):

At the end of the day, a lot of us are emerging from this journey stronger and more resilient. That means we are ready for what the future has in store for us, for both challenge and opportunity. Chris Herd has thought a lot about those challenges and opportunities. From his home base in Aberdeen, Scotland, Chris has been busy these past couple of years studying the transformation and tweeting about this new way of working and living. Chris’s company Firstbase sets up businesses around the world with tools to work remotely. Chris builds on what Grace Lordan says. In fact, he takes it to the next level. Where Grace talks about resilience, Chris talks about empowerment. His prediction for the future: lots of people finding a new path to their work life bliss.

Employees choosing the lives they want

Chris Herd:

I think there's a universal desire for people still to spend time together physically, because I think there's great value in that. It's sort of this piece where I'm quite willing to concede by the way, that communication and collaboration is higher in person. But the question I always have for folks after that is like, okay, now that I've conceded that, now you tell me how much better it is. I think the big unknown, and this is a question organizations have is, well, how frequently do we need to come together to get those benefits. So I think over the next three to five years, we're going to see the highest volume of turnover inside organizations in history. And what we're effectively witnessing is talent choosing the life outcomes that they want versus just being stuck in the status quo of what they already knew. And I think now, talent has more choice than it's ever had probably in history, right? You can work for a company locally. You can work for one nationally. You can work for one internationally if you're going to work remotely.

Melanie Green (host):

One of the fundamental shifts that Chris is seeing is in our understanding of what work is. It’s becoming clear that work is not a place you go, it’s what you do. The workplace is a flexible tool.

Chris Herd:

I don't believe in remote only, I believe people should be in the situation that they're happiest with. Not everybody can work from home. There's maybe situations, living situations at home where they can't. So, they like working in a coffee shop. Other people like coworking spaces, other people like corporate offices. Now organizations have an opportunity, particularly if they're big enough, like if we talk about large organizations, they can have regional hubs that people can go to and spend time with people from the same organization. They can give people cash to spend on coworking spaces so they can go to ones which are local rather than having to commute to other places. I've heard of organizations giving people money to spend in coffee shops, because that's where they feel like they do their best work.

Melanie Green (host):

Personally, I love a day or two a week brainstorming at the office with colleagues, another day working in my local cafe: scoring my favorite table in the corner, nursing a latte, enjoying the vibe. And I used to feel a little bit guilty about not being at my desk five days a week. But Chris says that’s a false dichotomy, that we have to think outside the box about a more flexible way of working.

Accessing a better quality of life through work

Chris Herd:

And what we mean is like, how can we empower a billion people globally to access a higher quality of life through work? Maybe you love surfing. So why wouldn't you go and live in Hawaii for six months of the year? Maybe you like reading, so you go and live somewhere in the world where you can sit in a dark room somewhere and read. There's so many different variants to this, you know, I like to travel, so I want to travel while working. And that to me is like the ultimate crux of the question.

Melanie Green (host):

The question that Chris is asking is how do we empower ourselves to access a higher quality of life through work. And it’s not just about making ourselves happy. It’s about creating an environment in which we can do our best work. An environment in which our job satisfaction is at a high level. That means higher retention of employees and a better quality of life for everyone.

Chris Herd:

It's about democratizing access to opportunity. At no point in history could someone in the north of Scotland be building the business that I'm building right now. So I've been a beneficiary of that, but I think the more you talk to people, the more you hear their stories. You hear about people being able to be there for family members who may be recovering from cancer. Hearing about people being able, like me, to see my kids walk and laugh for the first time. And yeah, I think what's really cool to me is the more people you talk to, the more stories you hear and the more opportunity you hear from them that they've had that quality of life. So yeah, I hope people stop talking about the future of work and we start talking about a better future of living because that seems like a better outcome to me.

A pivotal moment: reshaping the future of work

Melanie Green (host):

Chris Herd believes that this is a pivotal moment. As we reshape the future of work, we have an opportunity to transform our quality of life. So what will that future look like? Well, constantly evolving technology that we can use to make our work experience more productive. We might even be heading to the annual conference in a holodeck and I am pumped for that. It also means a transformation in corporate structure and leadership; less top down and more collaborative. And a new opportunity to balance work and life with the result being a more robust, creative and satisfied workforce. That sounds pretty positive. Sure, there will be plenty of ups and downs; progress is never a straight line. But with these tools and the amazing creative thinkers that I’ve met on the podcast, I’m looking forward to the evolution of hybrid work. Work is not just what we do. It’s part of who we are. Healthy, productive and fulfilled. That’s my future. Thank you for being with us this season. You’ve been listening to Remote Works: Hybrid Survival Guide, an original podcast on Fieldwork by Citrix. Head to our show notes and learn more about our guests, and to link to research and best practices. Subscribe and listen wherever you get your podcasts. We’re at Citrix dot com slash remote works

BÜLTEN

Citrix tarafından Fieldwork’ten en son araştırmaları, içgörüleri ve hikayeleri alın.