Chief executives say the pandemic era points the way toward a near-future of inclusive cultures, more work-life balance, and an absolute shift to flexible work.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already wiped out millions of jobs, particularly those in hospitality and food service. What’s worse is that as we approach reopening activities in cities across the world, there is no reassurance that the novel coronavirus will disappear or if our lives will go back to normality. In fact, chief executives for top global companies polled by Business Insider say the post-pandemic era will welcome a redefining of the workforces after the pandemic and a more relaxed work-life balance into the world of corporate jobs.
Aaron Levie, CEO of the cloud-content-management company Box, said the company would “absolutely” shift to a more “dynamic, real-time” work style, defined by working from home and flexible work hours. Todd McKinnon, the CEO of the software company Okta, said the future of work would likely enable employees to work anywhere without sacrificing benefits like healthcare and volunteer opportunities. Jeff Lawson, the CEO of Twilio, a cloud-communications platform, said that “the virtual model of flexibility will always persist,” adding that “it’s up to teams to decide how they persist if they prefer to work remotely or cohabitate in an office (…) When people do return to offices, Lawson said, “we’ll see a lot fewer people five days a week and more people who will work from home one to two days a week.”Arthur Sadoun, CEO of the advertising holding company Publicis, agreed, saying that “today, no one cares if the work is in London and the talent that can take it on is in Chicago — everyone is working remotely.”
“We used to joke about meetings that could have been emails,” said Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc, “but now we’ll wonder why we can’t just do them in our pajamas with our pets on videoconference.”
The flexible-work revolution is here. The conversation about increasing work-life balance had largely centered on a four-day workweek. And that has had some glimmers of success, as when Microsoft cut one day of the workweek at a Japanese subsidiary and saw a 40% boost in productivity. But executives said a separate breakthrough was emerging from the fog of the pandemic: flexible work.
The new flexibility “will benefit employees and leaders alike by boosting team morale,” said Carolyn Childers, CEO of Chief, a private network for female professionals, adding that remote work is a widely sought-after employee benefit. In aFebruary survey of 1,000 US professionals conducted by Deloitte, 94% indicated that they would “benefit from work flexibility.”It could help companies save on travel costs and rent, Childers said, as well as increase access to new, diverse talent pools beyond the city where the company is based, potentially transforming the job markets in rural areas.
To be sure, the benefits these CEOs described are likely to primarily extend to workers in office settings, whose jobs can easily be made virtual. For these white-collar professionals, work may never be the same again.