Last year, when we could all still travel, I went to London do a Guardian Live event on the 4-day week. One of my fellow panelists was Lynda Gratton, a professor and author of the book The 100 Year Life, about the impact of greater longevity on how we’ll work.
Recently, she spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review about how the pandemic could affect the future of work:
The coronavirus will accelerate some latent trends in how, where and why we work. It is clear that we are all a great deal more confident in virtual working.
As one Chinese businessman said to us in early March over a video link: “In the pre-pandemic world,” he noted, “I used to travel between Hong Kong and Beijing once a week for a couple of meetings. Now I find I can do 4 or 5 meetings a day — my productivity has significantly increased.” After China gets back to normal will he still fly every week? I doubt it.
We also expect the patterns of work to become a great deal more flexible. We’ve learned to manage our new daily routines by coordinating closely with colleagues and building in time flexibility. We’ve eased the stress of managing multiple boundaries between home and work with short-term tactics like creating blocks of time. These new capabilities to manage time and resources are fast morphing into the foundation for crafting new ways of working.
In doing so, we’ve inevitably broken the norm of working eight hours a day, five days a week. Will we move swiftly back to this traditional time model? We doubt it, and executives should be preparing now to experiment with four-day working weeks and to accommodate more employees who ask to work late in the evening (or very early in the morning) instead of 9-5.