Big Data

Gartner prescribes a human-centric, hybrid-focus for the future of work

Early in his presentation on recommendations for the future of work, Gartner distinguished VP and analyst, Graham Waller, highlighted the need to rethink “archaic” assumptions like the idea of the traditional 9 to 5 workday. Waller noted this traditional structure of work dates back to early factories that depended on utilizing the natural light coming in the windows to do their work.

Today, we have plenty of lightbulbs to make that practice irrelevant, just as we have remote collaboration technologies that make the assumption that in-office work is the most productive obsolete, Waller pointed out at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.

“There has never been a better time than right now to shatter some of these industrial-era assumptions,” he said.

The future of work is hybrid-focused

The conference itself, traditionally a major tech gathering based in Orlando, was virtual once again this year due to resurgent concerns about COVID-19. Changes in where and how we work have been a major theme of this year’s event, with “the future of work is hybrid” as a common refrain.

But even more than focusing on the mechanics of how we conduct meetings – in person or by videoconference – organizations ought to be thinking “human-centric, not location-centric,” Waller said.

Organizations should be concerned with retaining their best talent, given the “great resignation” currently underway nationwide. Workers who have gotten a taste of greater flexibility and autonomy are likely to conclude their time at an organization that forces them to give it up, Waller explained. Nowhere is this truer than in IT organizations, where 66% of workers say flexible work is a factor in whether they will stay with an organization and only 29% express a high “intent to stay,” according to recent Gartner surveys.

Driving strategy with human-centric data

Planning for how work is done should be driven by data, rather than gut instinct, Waller said. Clients often come to him asking for advice on how to enforce, for example, their latest mandate that everyone ought to be in the office three days a week. But when he asks what data led them to settle on three days as the magic number, they tend not to have a good answer.

Rather than setting arbitrary rules, organizations should look at maximizing flexibility for workers and teams within the context of the work to be done, Waller said. For example, an agile software development team working within the framework of two-week sprints has many days when programmers can be working autonomously and asynchronously on heads-down coding. It’s at specific milestones like sprint retrospectives – where they assess what went well and what can be improved – that meeting synchronously and ideally in person is most valuable. So an arbitrary requirement that employees be in the office on certain days would be counterproductive if it is out of sync with the rhythm of the work being executed.

Done right, a hybrid work program reduces fatigue by 44%, improves intent to stay by 45%, and improves performance by 28%, according to Gartner.

For company leaders looking to create a hybrid work policy at their own companies…

What to avoid:

  • Making decisions based on gut instinct, rather than data
  • Assuming innovation can only happen in the office around the office cooler
  • One-size-fits-all rules, regardless of the underlying work

What to do:

  • Craft a human-centric design
  • Flex to fit the underlying work
  • Apply intentional planning to shape collaboration

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