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What Is “IT”? How Do We Do It?

In the next two weeks, we will experience the shortest day of the year, the end of 2020 (thank goodness), and the once-in-800 years alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. It reminds me of the anthropological concept of “liminality,” defined as a “transitional period or a phase of a rite of passage.” That’s where we are right now, especially as it relates to how we will work and live in 2021.

When I say “what it will look like,” I don’t mean just in a tactical day-to-day sense, but fundamentally and foundationally what “IT” will look like.  All we can safely say is how, when, and where we work will not look like it did a year ago, or even how it looks right now.

Helping organizations navigate this liminal period between the radical pandemic-driven disruption of work and reimagining what reality will look like on the other side, the question “what is IT” has been front and center, but so has “how do you do it?”

Each week, the “IT” becomes clearer. Surveys consistently confirm a majority of employees expect to operate post-pandemic, on average, 2-3 days a week in the office and 2-3 days a week remotely, with a small percentage saying they want to work 100% remotely and another small percentage wanting to work 100% onsite, in the office.

A “hybrid onsite/remote flexible work model” is the easiest, most concrete way to define that next-stage vision; however, a more accurate description would be a digitally-enabled flexible way of operating across place, workspace, process, pace and time.  What we call high performance flexibility:

Why does this matter?  Because the vision that guides your efforts will determine the answer to the second question, “how do you do it?” The more strategic, culture-focused, and coordinated the vision, the more likely you will achieve that outcome.

Google’s announcement this week that they will pilot a new flexible work model in September is an early example of defining what they think their organization’s “IT” will be as well as how they plan to execute (although I’m very curious to see the details, which will be telling).

As I noted in a segment on Marketplace and on LinkedIn, here’s what struck me in Google’s message to employees:

  • What’s missing: the word “policy.” This is not a policy statement. It’s a framework for a digitally-enabled flexible way of operating across place, space, and process (with collaboration encouraged for days onsite) where one size doesn’t fit all.
  • Who sent it: the CEO.
  • How they’re implementing: with a “pilot” that signals they are starting with 3 days a week in the office but will learn and continue to improve and recalibrate. (Note: I ultimately think they will move away from being so prescriptive, but it’s where they are starting).
  • Call to action: “opportunity to reimagine our workplace together.” Yes.

What is “IT”? And, how do you do it?  These are the questions we will explore together over the coming months, as we navigate this transitional, “liminal” moment.  Because, here’s the good news, we’ve done it before.  Pre-COVID, we worked with leaders who saw the future of work trends coming that the pandemic accelerated for everyone else.  They voluntarily shifted their organizations to a more dynamic “hybrid onsite/remote” flexible way of operating and were ready when the pandemic hit.  We’ve seen firsthand the performance and well-being that a strategic, deliberate, culture-based approach to work flexibility can unlock.  And we look forward to helping you do the same thing in 2021.