Everyone is busy taking educated guesses about the future of Work right now, and for good reason. We don’t know what “back to normal” will look like and we don’t know how long it will take to get there. But the good news is, so long as you don’t have your heart set on getting things back the way they were in 2019, you (individually) will have a chance to shape the future of Work. A chance we (collectively) didn’t have before.
During Coronavirus, I have become interested in the idea that the disruption of long-standing patterns can be a very good thing because it creates the opportunity for new, better patterns to replace them. As I think now about the path forward to the next version of normal for Work, it’s becoming apparent there’s also been an important shift in the location and the nature of the driving force.
“I always thought the rise of remote work would be something driven by great people demanding remote opportunities as a condition of employment.
Now I think it will be companies who’ve gotten comfortable with remote working that will push for this transition, and empower their workers with the flexibility they need to do better work.”
Chris Herd, CEO of Firstbase
I think Chris is absolutely right. The power has shifted to a new location. And it’s much more than a shift in who’s driving the future. It’s also a change in the fundamental dynamics through which that power-to-change will be applied.
This is happily the first of what will be an ongoing series of profiles of organizations that are worth taking a closer look at because they are “well-distributed“. In these profiles, we’ll try to take a look at how these organizations operate, what principles they abide, and how they judge their success as a distributed organization.
I was surprised to discover only recently that the US Patent and Trademark Office is indeed a paragon of remote working, with a twenty-year history of pioneering work in distributed organization optimization.
“20 years after the inception of the original remote work pilot, the USPTO has 88% of its workforce working remotely one to five days a week. Remote working has become a proven success at the USPTO, enhancing the agency’s ability to attract and compete for talent.”
Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property & Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Post Coronavirus, companies of every size and stripe are going to be looking to reinvent how they work. The presence of the USPTO (a government agency) on a list of organizations that are succeeding in a significantly distributed manner should be very encouraging to all types of other organizations who may be considering a permanent shift to a more distributed version of themselves.
It’s clear the world of Work is going to be very different when we settle on a new normal after COVID-19. Lots of folks are particularly interested in asking the question: How will Coronavirus accelerate the adoption of remote working?
To get a handle on the level of remote working adoption before Coronavirus, it seemed useful to create a list of relevant remote working statistics. We found there was a lot of “behavioral data” out there and data about preferences among remote workers. There was also data about aggregate numbers of remote workers. But almost no data about the numbers of companies that were either fully distributed or above 15%* distributed before COVID-19.
Going forward, we believe it will be important to track the number of companies >15% distributed to gauge the overall penetration rate in remote working.