The future of work is hybrid
To build more people-focused organizations we need to start by building more tech-focused organizations.
Perhaps that sounds counterintuitive. But strip back most inventions and, in essence, what they do is give us back the gift of time – whether it is tractors making it faster to plant crops, airplanes making it faster to travel long distances, or mobile banking apps meaning you don’t have to wait in line to see your bank manager.
Time is the most precious resource we have as human beings. Technology enabled people to work remotely during a pandemic. And remote working gave people the time to have breakfast with their families, go for an energizing run between energy-sapping meetings, and be there to collect their children from school.
As many companies plan their return (or not) to the office, we need to remember that remote working is not just about harnessing productivity gains or efficiency savings, as important as they are, but also about giving employees the gift of time and the freedom to choose how and when they work.
Over the course of the pandemic, we have worked together with our customers to help enable a mass global shift to remote working. After seeing a huge growth in network traffic during the first lockdowns, driven by videoconferencing and streaming, levels have now stabilized at around 60 percent above pre-pandemic levels.
Our experts at Nokia Deepfield believe that the demand for bandwidth and low-latency connectivity will continue to soar even when workplaces can fully reopen. To meet this rising demand and ensure fast, secure, and reliable digital access for individuals and organizations, we need to rapidly accelerate the rollout of new technologies like 5G and next-generation fiber-to-the-home.
We also need to improve connectivity within homes by moving to Wi-Fi 6 so people can create networks capable of handling multiple devices without experiencing dropouts. In fact, the faster we can get to a gigabit world, the quicker we can close digital divides and spread employment opportunities beyond major cities. It will also help us in the fight against climate change by cutting the need for unnecessary commuting.
Nokia’s employees have shown incredible creativity and resilience to support our customers while working remotely. When we asked our people to help design the Nokia workplace of the future, on average they said that two days a week in an office/location and three days at home was the optimal balance between collaborative work and tasks requiring a more individual focus. But clearly this will vary from role to role and from person to person.
We want to give all our people greater choice and flexibility over their work, so we’re accelerating our transition to become a fully hybrid global workplace. Some people will choose to work mainly from home, others will choose to work mainly in offices redesigned to offer more collaborative spaces, and in other places we will secure the right facilities as and when required. This will be a country-by-country process and we will learn and refine as we go.
We are trusting our employees to agree with their teammates and managers on a way of working that lets them all fulfill the expectations of their individual roles while meeting our organization’s business needs. But with that trust also come new responsibilities. Leaders will have to lead differently. Managers will have to act more like mentors to motivate teams working remotely. And every employee will have to take ownership of their decisions and see Nokia’s continuous improvement as part of their job.
An Ernst & Young report titled “Why Remote Working is the Way Forward” found that employees who spend at least some of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don’t ever work remotely. But the authors also warned against imposing old ways of working onto new models, calling on firms to develop new organizational capabilities and “transfer workloads to the cloud and leverage software that permits employees to share, connect, and continue to collaborate.”
The pandemic forced organizations to change. Technology gave people the tools to innovate. In many cases, the results have been too good to go back to the old way of doing things.
At Nokia, we create technology that helps the world act together.
We are going to use technology to help our own people act better together wherever they are.
Working from different locations. But acting together everywhere.
That is the approach we’re taking at Nokia.