What is the future of work given the COVID-19 pandemic? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The pandemic’s tectonic shift has changed the workplace. In-person meetings are becoming Zoom calls, hallways conversations are becoming Slack messages, and synchronous workflows are becoming asynchronous. It feels as if traditional working patterns were uprooted overnight. The question is which behavioral changes are ephemeral and which are enduring?
Let’s start with remote work. My belief is that remote work is not a reasonable solution for every knowledge worker. Although it offers several benefits to both employees (no commute, live where you want) and employers (lower physical footprint costs, global talent pool), there are also downsides — meeting fatigue, missed in-person connections, longer work hours, loneliness, etc. To that end, I posit that enterprises will embrace a more flexible workplace modality that is neither 100% in-person nor 100% remote. An employee can freely enter the office when it proves higher leverage to collaborate in-person. We’re already seeing F500 companies reduce their physical footprint in service of this hybrid model.
Another change catalyzed by the pandemic is the standardization of knowledge work. As our ability to process larger and more complex data sets grows, knowledge work is becoming more measurable. Instead of a series of abstract workflows, we’re starting to recast knowledge work as quantified processes that can be measured and optimized. Companies like Gong and Chorus help illustrate this trend. Both companies take a human-centric process (i.e. sales call) and formalize it by processing call transcriptions and surfacing insights. Ultimately, as more companies move to distributed, asynchronous work paradigms, I believe productivity at both the individual and team level will be increasingly measured and optimized to help companies better manage teams remotely.
Finally, I believe that greater standardization of knowledge work will lay the groundwork for more pervasive automation. Any standardized process that doesn’t require human judgment will likely be subsumed by deterministic computing over time, freeing people to work on higher-value tasks. Moveworks is a good example. The company supercharges the productivity of IT teams by automatically responding to the most common IT support requests, allowing IT teams to focus on more nuanced and complex issues. This results in reduced ticket resolution times, better employee experience, and happier IT professionals.