Vaccines are going into arms, patios are opening up, and there are timid plans for people to return to normal life.
After a wild 15-month ride, it now seems surreal that we might be almost out of it. (I've just touched wood for all of us.)
Most of us have read that many people prefer to continue to work from home. So how can teams adapt to address people's favoured ways of working? How can we create a consistent way to collaborate now that there's some regularity to our way of life again?
We asked 6 of the most forward-thinking startup leaders we know to tell us what we should all be doing as we go back to the office. Wait, what does the word "office" even mean anymore?
Here's what they said about the new way forward.
Humans first, tech second
It's something we often hear in the realms of startups but the people cry has never been louder than now. We know that as a manager—whether you manage people, projects, or even both—the humanity you bring to your remote team will increase trust, innovation, and a sense of purpose in your people.
Here's more from Luc Pallavidino, Yousign CEO
"It's all about getting rid of tasks with no added value, instead focusing on the ones that really feed our human skills and expertise. Tech should be serving us to make daily tasks easier and to improve the way we interact with each other. A good piece of tech helps people work better together, more fluidly, more efficiently— we need to let remote tools take care of the boring parts."
Aim for an autonomous team
A team that is—to a certain degree—self-managed, can make the remote work experience much smoother across the organization. Just think of all the efficiencies when a team is able to zap check-ins and stand-ups from their weekly routine. Plus, these activities often signal a lack of trust to the team, which can be kryptonite to a remote setup.
To put this philosophy in action, Spendesk introduced a flexible system that includes remote contracts for people who choose to work 100% remotely, and a flexible office solution for others.
In the words of Rodolphe Ardant, Spendesk's co-founder and CEO:
"The future is about having a decentralized organization that's based on collective trust and individual ownership. This means that the team is empowered to own their scope of work autonomously. They decide and act without having to consult leadership every time—within certain budgets and towards the common goals, of course."
Rethink your company HQ
Remote work has given birth to another phenomenon that we are living but rarely speaking of: the remote lifestyle. Prior to 2020, people could work from anywhere. Now, they can work in any way.
This will prompt an evolution in how we envision, and use, the company headquarters. Here's Noemie El-Baz's, CEO and co-founder of Fleex with more:
"The company HQ will continue to exist for most companies, but its role will evolve. It'll become a social space for events and company-wide meetings. A space where teams go to hang out and bond, but not where they'll do their everyday work."
But this future will create new challenges. According to Noemie, some things will still need figuring out.
For one, as the office loses its role as the center of work, companies will need to find new ways to continue to engage their employees and attract great talent. Specifically, brands will need to pay attention to their remote teams' surroundings, making sure they're working in an environment with optimal conditions.
"When we all worked in an office, if a team member's chair broke, we'd automatically replace or fix it for them. So why would these habits change as we go remote? That's why the core of our business is to help companies provide and assist their remote teams with everything they need to work in great conditions."
Meeting in real time will still happen
"We still believe in real-time conversations over any other channel: it’s a powerful and personal way to communicate." —Sandrine Meunier, Chief People Officer at Aircall
Face it (and apologies for the pun) nothing will ever fully replace the richness and depth of communicating with someone live. Immediate feedback, visual cues, and the ability to mimic a counterpart's tone and gestures are the bedrocks of how humans interact. But for a species that's had that opportunity limited, we've done pretty well in the past year. Now how do we take that going forward?
Here's more from Sandrine:
"Managers will have to challenge their current methods of organizing tasks, delivery, and communication. They also need to rethink the way that they spend time with teams and focus on the right rituals to create team spirit and alignment. The least productive approach would be to try and monitor everyone’s work habits 24/7. Instead, we base the high quality of virtual collaboration between our teams on effective communication."
Adapt for talent
"A new collective form of work will emerge, allowing members to have the flexibility to work on projects that truly matter to them." — Jean de Rauglaudre, CEO and co-founder of Collective
We've all figured out by now that the future is a place where independence and flexibility will win the (work)day. Because the phenomenon is not limited to geography, skill, or industry—workers around the world have shifted to working remotely, and the balance of power to choose where and how they work has begun to shift to their favor. People want flexibilty, and brands need to adapt to that in order to keep attracting the best talent.
Here's more from Jean:
"Unlike freelancers, people will team up in groups to mutualize their skills and networks. This new collective form of work will allow members to have the flexibility to work on projects that truly matter to them. And companies will work with collectives to go faster and work with talented teams. It's all about more independence, flexibility and fulfillment—we believe that this is the future of work."
Now it's your turn. What have you learned from working remotely over the past year? What knowledge gems are you taking forward? Anything we haven't mentioned? Anything that you'd like to tell the world?
If so, we want to hear about it, and may feature you in our next article.