Today’s worker is living and working through unprecedented global uncertainty. Our research, “From always connected to omni-connected,” suggests that only one in six workers feels truly connected to their work, their team and their organization. In part because of this, companies are making decisions about where their people will physically work in the future. But another study indicates that companies need to think beyond spaces and places.
For example, although 83% of the global workforce identified a hybrid workplace as ideal in 2021, more workers are fully onsite than before (36% vs. 25% in 2021) across all industries. Along with that, work-life enhancement has dropped by 4% since last year, meaning the average worker has less energy from their personal lives to bring back to their work. So, it also shouldn’t come as a surprise that only 29% of workers now trust that their company’s leaders have their best interests at heart.
What’s more, leaders overestimate how connected their people are by 2x, meaning leaders are not creating an organizational culture—and supporting people within it—as well as they think they are. So, asking where people should work in the future might be the wrong question. A better question is: What unlocks people’s potential, enabling them to be happy, healthy and productive, regardless of where they work? Smart companies have the answers. They’re giving people resources tailored to their individual needs.
Digital transformation has been a priority for companies in recent years, but now it is an imperative for survival.
The hybrid workplace model
Right now, too many companies are focused on places and spaces. However, success in the future of work will require organizations to support and enable workers in new ways if they want to unlock human potential.
We need to question assumptions about how, where and when work typically happens, and rethink traditional models so that people can be productive anywhere. That means serving individuals, businesses and communities equally well. And technology will be key.
What are industry-specific solutions for future work?
Whether it’s health practitioners, grocery store clerks or delivery drivers, an estimated 2.7 billion people keep our world working. And while they may not have a choice in work location, there are other areas of flexibility that companies can explore to provide more autonomy in their work experiences—through the tools they use, decisions they make, benefits they select and schedules they keep. One example is reskilling or upskilling. By helping employees to identify and unlock hidden skills, companies can empower sustainable change.
Here are some industry-specific shifts toward the future of work:
Digital tools are essential to helping frontline retail workers make decisions faster, automate burdensome processes and lighten the load of physical labor. Investments in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are equipping retail frontline workers to enjoy more interesting and complex jobs.
To date, technology advances have been the major factor reshaping mining and metals companies in the natural resources industry. However, the urgent need to adapt to climate change and the imperative to navigate geopolitical uncertainty is also dramatically reshaping the sector. In the next decade, mining and metals companies will need a dramatic change in skillsets, requiring new talent management strategies. Today, they also need purpose, autonomy, independence and innovation, including flexible work when possible.
At patient call centers, compliance has always been ensured by having employees physically present on site. But what about in a hybrid health workplace? In the new work conditions imposed by the pandemic, one healthcare company began requiring each worker to self-certify that they could operate in a private space to keep patients’ information confidential. While fully depending on a premise of trust between employee and employer, this self-certification created autonomy and a sense of ownership for workers, who were trusted to do the right thing while working remotely.
Remote work was practically unheard of in the public service sector until the onset of COVID-19, and suddenly became a necessity—and has raised questions as to how the work experience can be changed for the better, permanently. To find the answers, leaders should use technology to maintain a steady flow of insights from employees in terms of what they need to be successful when working remotely. They should also use Stop/Start/Continue methods of workflow and efficiency evaluations, as well as invest in upskilling/reskilling programs.
Like many organizations, Accenture shifted almost 100% of our people to remote work during the past two years. Though a portion of our employee population has worked remotely for decades, there were some key learnings from this pandemic shift that we are using to shape our future of work—while balancing the needs of our clients and the health and safety of our people. Now, we’re reimagining the future of work by creating an environment where our people feel connected and included and know they belong.
Enterprise metaverse workplaces create opportunities for employees to come together in new ways, such as collaboration in virtual workplaces, augmented physical places and a blend of the two. Accenture’s enterprise metaverse workplaces, which we call the Nth Floor, allows our people to meet in offices without being physically present, and also offers unique onboarding experiences for new hires.
It’s still early, but the Nth Floor shows that hybrid workplaces might never be the same.
Across industries, smart leaders are mindful of “proximity bias”—the potential to unequally distribute opportunities to those who are more physically present, to the disadvantage of those who are remote. Avoiding this requires an acute focus on culture and providing an equitable, omni-connected experience in which people can forge relationships, create both personal and business value and impact, and grow their careers. The four key future of work strategies to create value through omni-connected experiences are:
Instill modern leadership: Lead with empathy, transparency and trustworthiness.
Grow a thriving culture: Nurture cultural norms that prioritize purpose, authenticity and psychological safety.
Enable the agile organization: Take flexibility further and scale new ways of working.
Empower people through technology: Provide access to a robust foundation and the ability to experiment.
Omni-connection provides a sense of purpose. However, only 26% of CEOs are ready to transform the work experience and manage people and their organizations in new ways. Many are reluctant to prioritize work models and approaches that differ from those used in the past. Future-ready CEOs will be at a distinct advantage moving forward because they:
Connect people to purpose in ways that are personal and impactful by giving them a sense of dignity and clarity at work.
Embed learning and development across the experience of every worker through reskilling or upskilling opportunities.
Enable people to be productive anywhere, ultimately creating organization-wide cultural practices that drive successful omni-connection in the future of work.
Develop an organization-wide digital strategy in which digital tools are at the center of how people connect, work and grow.
The collective call to reimagine how and where we work is strong. Optimizing the resources that ensure a healthy and productive workforce, regardless of physical location, can be daunting—but organizations that do will see bottom-line benefits.
Twenty-six percent of CEOs are ready to transform the work experience and manage people and their organizations in new ways.
The future of work is happening now. Responsible leaders are moving beyond physical location to shape the future of work by giving people resources tailored to their needs. In fact, one Accenture study, “The future of work: A hybrid work model,” found that 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model.
Simply put, the future of work is digital. By enabling work from anywhere, digital tools allow workers to bring their best selves to work—wherever they are. Yet according to the Accenture report “Modern cloud champions,” just 18% of CXOs have a clear cloud transformation vision and are implementing continuous change across their workforce. Digital transformation has been a priority for companies in recent years, but now it is an imperative for survival. Our research, “Honing your digital edge,” found that digitally fluent organizations score highly in innovation, people experience and customer value.
Although 66% of CEOs believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a need to do things differently from an organizational and people perspective, many are reluctant to prioritize work models and approaches that differ from those used in the past. Only 26% of CEOs are ready to move past traditional approaches to holistically transform the work experience and manage people and organizations in new ways.