There are two very different visions for how technology can change the future of work. One can dictate employees’ existences through extreme control and coercion. The other can enable workers to flourish by freeing up their time and helping them feel more energised, creative, dynamic and positive about their workplace.
Imagine the first of these two visions…
You sit down at your desk. You’re already exhausted from the 90-minute commute you’ve just made to the office. Despite paying £6,000 of your hard-earned salary for a season ticket each year all you’re ever lucky enough to get is cramped standing space.
You had to rush to switch your computer on before 9am so that your manager will be notified of your arrival. Your computer is fitted with monitoring software so your manager can track your every activity. Every keystroke. Every website you visit. Eye movement sensors allow your manager to see precisely what’s captured your attention most.
Your computer is also configured to track when and for how long you’re taking breaks. This information will be analysed by the company’s AI and areas for improvement will be shared with you during your next review.
Now imagine the second of these two visions…
You sit down to start your day in your home office with the sun beaming in through the window. Your company’s remote working model means that you have the time to take your kids to school and go for a run before the working day’s even begun.
You start up your computer and your home fibre connection means you can access the internet 100 times faster than you could in your company’s old office. Your employer’s adoption of messaging and video calling means that you’ve never felt closer to your international colleagues.
You’re working on a major project that requires you to be at your most creative. You plan on taking a long walk that afternoon to think about the challenge laid down to you because you do your best thinking in the open air.
You have one of your children’s parent's evenings tonight. It’s the first time you’ll be able to make it since dispensing with your old commute.
The first vision effectively depicts a policy that was introduced by Barclays less than a week ago, which involved spyware being installed on employees’ computers in an attempt to relentlessly monitor their productivity. Following a company-wide revolt and an entirely justified spate of staff backlash this policy has (thankfully) since been ditched by the investment bank.
The second vision depicts what can happen when technology is integrated in a way that is favourable to all. Employers really shouldn’t concern themselves with where employees are based, or whether they work from home or in an office setup. If you trust them enough to hire them, you need to trust them enough to buy into what you’re trying to build and feel invested in your shared success.
In our own location-agnostic model we’ve been able to build an incredibly diverse multinational team. This, in turn, has allowed us to operate at a level of efficiency and creativity that rivals – and quite frankly surpasses – anything I’ve ever experienced in a traditional office setup. Not to mention that together collectively we’ve saved our team the equivalent of one year having eradicated the commute.
The first vision displays a flagrant disregard for employees’ wellbeing and a total lack of trust in their dedication. The second equates to a united sense of purpose and an enormous increase in productivity and commitment. Employers of tomorrow, the choice is yours.
Brendon Craigie is co-founder and managing partner of Tyto