Joe Machicote, Premier, Inc.

Joe Machicote

The Future of Work

What are your views on the future of work and what will the office of the future look like?

It is important to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic created a transformational change in the U.S. and around the world. No matter how nostalgic we might be for the old days, they will never return.

I hear a lot of talk about the “return to office.” It can be a polarizing topic that is difficult to implement because no matter the decision, there is likely to be a group left unhappy. So, we try to meet in the middle. Overall, the problem here really lies in fixed mindset thinking – aiming to solve for a new culture with vestiges of the old, when in fact, what we need to do is develop a new, refreshed culture altogether.

Building a workplace based on active, intentional collaboration that allows employees to experience the office and work in a way that is different from their remote set-up is key. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves, “Why would I go into the office when no one is there to sit in a dark workspace and attend Zoom calls, when I can do that without the added commuting expense and wasted time?” The new workplace must go through transformational change and come out the other end as something completely new, not modified nostalgia.

How can companies maintain culture and a collaborative environment in a remote work structure?

I would like to change a couple of words in this question, which become part of the answer. The question we should be asking is: “How can companies create a new culture and a collaborative environment in a remote work structure?”

We must redefine our corporate cultures. We have to ask employees what works, listen and measure where we are in the remote environment. It is incumbent upon those tasked with managing culture and performance to work collaboratively with leaders and employees across the organization to create a shared vision for the future.

As an HR leader, is it necessary for employees to be in the office to build employee engagement?

It certainly helps. One of the added benefits of being in the office is that I don’t have to schedule a high five with someone who has just done a great job. It’s nice to have impromptu conversations and lunch meetings. It’s great to have a stop and chat in the hallway and share a good story.

However, as I have said, human resources professionals will have to think about how we create – not redefine – our new culture. Maybe a hybrid approach to high fives is the answer.

We must realize that some members of the workforce may never return to the office – and depending on a certain function or role, that may make good sense. This is where we need to have innovation and creativity – in conjunction with a healthy dose of employee feedback – to enable a journey of cultural, transformational change.