We're Not Going Back

Article

Today, Twitter’s new CEO, Elon Musk, allegedly via a 2:30AM email to employees, demanded that everyone return to the office for at least 40 hours a week.

But even as CEOs (who also run commute dependent car companies) thrash around, this is a reminder:

We are not going back to the old way.

The old in office model of work and employment in which the average worker spent nearly an hour a week commuting to a 9-5 job in an office is dead.  

You can debate it, you can argue pros and cons, you can rant about the good old days, but there is no avoiding the Future, which is already here.

We are not going back.

Really, we shouldn’t be surprised.  

How many industries and workflows have we seen de-digitize once they’ve tasted the better economics of digital?  When Napster and Limewire burst on the scene, there was no going back.  When Netflix stopped shipping DVDs, there was no going back.  When Yahoo News started aggregating all of the top news stories, there was no going back.

Why should the office be any different?

Given that productivity went UP during the pandemic, while returning hours into the hands of employees which they poured into family, sleep, self care, and yes, more work, why would we think we would be going back?  For who, for what?

Here are a few recent data points in support of this position:

So to summarize:

Workers are more efficient when they work remotely, and less likely to quit.  Companies who offer at least partial remote work spend less on real estate, and less on recruiting.   And they are more productive.  Finally, the rising generation of companies founded post March, 2020 have no past to go back to, and seem to be fully embracing hybrid and remote work.

While remote / hybrid work is certainly a fun topic to debate, the question of whether we are going back to the way we worked before the pandemic has been answered.

We are not going back.

What Comes Next, and What Tools are Needed?

There seem to be two post pandemic models emerging that may be starting to stick.

The first is hybrid.  Much of the white collar world seems to be settling on a 3/2 model, with three days in the office, and two work from home.  This model returns commuting hours to the employees, and protects employers’ real estate investments, while enabling proven in person culture, collaboration, and camaraderie models.  

Is hybrid a bridge to the past or a bridge to the future?  At this point it’s unclear, though it’s hard to imagine the digital tide receding.

What are the tools needed for a hybrid employer?  Well, the changes would seem to be incremental.  Collaboration and communication tools like Slack / Zoom / Teams / Atlassian are (and were) at the heart of the hybrid communication stack, but we may see more investment in previously peripheral tools like event technology, enterprise social, employee presence and resource booking, and culture & DEI.

The second model is fully remote.  While this segment is likely substantially smaller today than hybrid, there may be a rising tide.  If you use the Kleiner study as a case study of emerging companies, about 92% are choosing a fully remote model.  And it’s not just the new companies that have chosen this model; category leaders like Atlassian, Airbnb, Upwork and more are going all in on this model, inventing new processes and infrastructure to support the next chapter of work.

The tools needed for the fully remote company may be more radically different than what we had seen pre pandemic.  Event technology figures prominently for this cohort, as does virtual office tech like Roam, Gathertown, Welo and more.  

Here at twine, an early stage company of 12 employees in 10 cities, our comms stack is Slack / Zoom / Notion / Gsuite, with a variety of remote / hybrid focused plugins (mostly Zoom apps), like Sesh and twine.  We also invest aggressively in offsites, and remote first rituals like personal operating systems, dedicated hang out time, and more.

The Biggest Transformation of our Lifetime

Here in Silicon Valley, people’s excitement with Web3 has more recently been replaced with an obsession with generative AI.  And that stuff sure is exciting.

But the biggest behavioral shift of our lifetime - how we work - continues to unfold in front of our eyes, and my sense is that it’s early innings.  A new way of working requires new tools, tools that may resemble more of the "ambient awareness" that we saw during Web 2.0 then Web3, and here at twine, we are excited to be working on a generation defining problem.

What tools are your remote or hybrid company using to stay connected and energized?  What processes and rituals?  Please comment below.

Written by
Lawrence Coburn

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