When Chance Becomes Change

Anyone who has tried to quit a bad habit knows that it is easier said than done. By rote repetition, that action has become ingrained into our neurons, allowing us to perform that action without thinking about the potential negative impacts.

The Monday to Friday 9-5 work schedule, and corresponding management habits, that started with factory operations and were carried over to the office likewise became ingrained in our cultural neurons. Just as with the habits that we all sometimes develop in our personal lives, we develop them in our society without thinking about the potential negative impacts.

After over a century of this workplace rhythm, the universe threw us a curveball. The global pandemic, coupled with rapid technological advancements, acted as twin engines propelling us into an era where the traditional boundaries of work were obliterated. In reality, the technology had existed, and the infrastructure had already been adopted on an enterprise scale. Beginning when Amazon introduced AWS in 2002, companies widely embraced the concept of on-demand computing resources, including virtual machines, storage, and databases, paving the way for wider adoption. The concept of moving operations into the cloud offered advantages in terms of cost-effectiveness, scalability, and agility.

The same potential advantages existed, by the way, for staffing these businesses. However, unlike computing habits, which had only existed for a couple of decades, staffing habits had been developed over a couple of centuries, so we’d never adopted these advancements on an individual scale.

These dual forces have not only accelerated but necessitated the shift towards a productivity-based work culture, transforming our perceptions and the very fabric of how we define work. The stay-at-home and social distancing orders that began with the onset of the pandemic served as a global experiment in workplace practices, challenging the long-held belief that productivity was tethered to the physical office. Businesses worldwide were forced to pivot, virtually overnight, to remote work models. This shift wasn’t just about maintaining operations; it was about survival. In this crucible of necessity, the potential for a different kind of work-life began to crystallize—one that valued outcomes over optics, contribution over the location.

Parallel to the societal upheaval, technological advancements played a pivotal role in making this transition possible and, surprisingly, efficient. Video conferencing, along with other collaborative tools, transformed the idea of a virtual workspace from a makeshift arrangement to a viable, and for many, a preferred alternative. These technologies not only enabled continuity in the face of disruption but also showcased the untapped potential for flexibility, autonomy, and balance in the work-life equation.

Remote work, hybrid, work from home (WFH), flexible work, or whatever we choose to call it, has made an impact, and both individuals and business leaders continue to debate the best strategy. As we peel back the layers on how this experiment has reshaped work, it becomes clear that we’re not just witnessing a temporary adaptation but a profound reimagining of what it means to work, regardless of any one company policy. This reevaluation of work practices suggests a future where the measure of success is not where we work, but how well we work. As we progress through this narrative, remember: the seeds sown by these catalysts of change have the potential to cultivate a work culture that is more inclusive, flexible, and ultimately, more human. This journey through adaptation and innovation is not just about responding to immediate challenges but about envisioning and embracing a new framework for the future of work.