When Virtual becomes the New Normal

25th September 2018

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What does the future of work look like? We can only guess. The employment landscape has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Gone is the generation of a ‘job for life’ and the 9-5 desk job. By 2050 will all our jobs be completed by robots instead?

AI can never replace human intelligence completely, but it will certainly have an impact on the future of how we work. The same goes for face-to-face working – like the traditional office environment; some face-to-face interaction will always be required (we are human after all), but more and more jobs can and will be done remotely. Advances in telecommunications mean that we can be connected almost anywhere, anytime. Super-fast Broadband means that we don’t all have to be sat in an office to work together. We can work remotely as a virtual team, and still be effective.

Perhaps the key for managing work as we know it now is not about virtual or remote working. It’s not about AI or augmented reality – it’s about flexibility. Flexible working is about using the working method that fits the task at the time. It’s about travelling to an office, co-working space or meeting point when face-to-face interaction is required – to work through challenges, brainstorm solutions or build team communication. It’s not about sitting at a desk because someone expects you to. Flexible working is about working remotely or virtually when you need to get a document done or to work with web-based resources. This avoids time lost commuting and maximises productivity.

Leadership needs to evolve to ensure that managers use non-visual communication to engender team spirit and promote collaborative working. The importance of body language may be replaced by the importance of tone of voice – in written and telephone communications. Whilst previous generations may have learnt how to write a letter correctly, future generations will focus on email etiquette.

Flexible working applies to the future of how we hire, as well as how we work. As we have seen over the last decade, more and more companies are turning to freelancers and outsourcing to grow their business. This enables them to tap into the best talent whilst keeping their overheads low. Perhaps this is what the future of work could look like – cohesive communities of freelancers and agile work forces adapting to client needs, working together to get the job done – whatever that job may be.

Words: Rebecca Newenham, founder and director of virtual agency Get Ahead VA

What are your thoughts? Are we seeing more employers have to evolve in order to embrace flexible working? Will we seeing remote work expand exponentially in the coming years?

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