The future of work is a hot topic for founders right now. While many have embraced a remote-first way of work (and others are mandating all employees return to the office), I believe the future of work will be hybrid and different to what we have seen.
Startups who are trying to solve really big problems will need to figure out the balance between remote and in-person, both from a cultural and output perspective. At Carted, I know that we move faster when our team is together — but flexibility is also really important to the happiness (and productivity) of our people.
While a fully remote workplace might work well for big companies with lots of structure, including the likes of AirBnB and Uber, who have moved to fully remote or much smaller offices, at Carted we’re working with teams across time zones, and we work flexibly.
Sometimes, there might only be an hour a week where our teams overlap. This means those casual but important conversations we have in smaller ‘rooms’ or at lunch need to be communicated to those working remotely.
In this article, I take a look at eight trends that I believe will shape the future of work and discuss how Carted are working through the challenges some of these opportunities present.
1. Companies will need to communicate their values — both to new and existing employees.
Remote and hybrid work has meant startups can hire from anywhere in the world. While this comes with many benefits, there are challenges too. Working across different cultures and backgrounds makes it even more important to communicate your values and make sure the people you bring on board are aligned with those. In our hiring process, we find out what’s important to new hires, which of the Carted values stand out to them, and what they believe good company culture looks like.
At Carted, if the person we’re hiring is in Australia, we’ll give them the opportunity to have lunch with the whole team. We’ll also make sure they interview with the people they’ll be working with, not just the hiring manager. The hiring process isn’t a one-way interaction — we want to make sure whoever we hire thinks we’re the right fit for them too.
Communicating company values shouldn’t just be to new hires. These values need to be reinforced to existing team members, particularly those that might have been hired during the pandemic and whose first few years with your organisation might not have represented how you need people to work moving forward.
For example, the software company Dovetail has decided that in order for their team to do their best work, they have to be in the office. Their team understands why this is so important for what they are trying to build, based on the way the values of the organisation have been communicated.
While this approach might not be the right fit for every employee, Dovetail makes it clear that this is the best way to build their company. This not only helps current employees understand what they are working towards but also means they attract the right kind of people to their team.
2. Hiring will happen in similar time zones.
The future of work will see organisations hiring talent from all around the world, but hiring in ‘hubs’ will become even more important. Particularly for startups who are building tech products, hiring people in similar time zones will mean they can move much faster.
Real-time meetings are essential for this kind of collaborative work, and giving people the option to come together in a hub will help facilitate this. People won’t have to live next to HQ, but it will be extremely beneficial to be able to bring them together to collaborate in person when required.
3. Asynchronous work will become more frequent but will slow down startups trying to move quickly.
Startups are broadening their talent pool by hiring a team all over the globe. It’s almost impossible to find all of your talent in your own backyard, which means companies need to adapt to an asynchronous way of working. This is particularly necessary when you’re building a tech product or trying to serve an international market.
In theory, asynchronous work makes sense. Your team is technically working 24 hours a day when you’re across time zones, but in reality, this stops a lot of the organic discussion that comes when you’re online around the same time.
While it’s something we’ve adjusted to, nothing beats a synchronous brainstorming session. It doesn’t even need to be in person — tools like Google Meet mean we can jump from Slack into a face-to-face call in a matter of seconds. However, this isn’t possible when you’re working across time zones, which can really slow down the ideation process.
At Carted, there are a bunch of things we do to make working asynchronously easier. We make use of tools like Slack, Jira, and Notion. We also try to:
- Hire in similar time zones where we can.
- Prioritise meetings that need to be synchronous. Some meetings just can’t be watched back as a recording a day later.
- Clearly document processes (we shared ours via our public Notion here).
- Record everything, but also understand how people consume content. Not everyone has time to watch a 30-minute playback of a meeting that can be distilled into three dot points.
4. Contractors will become part of the team.
Organisations are now much more likely to hire freelancers and contractors, a trend that will positively impact the startup space. Not only does hiring freelancers and part-timers potentially increase diversity, it also makes great talent more easily accessible to startups.
Before the pandemic, organisations might not have had the structure and processes to hire freelancers — who typically work remotely — but now that we’ve been through almost 3 years of developing those systems, managing a freelancer is much easier.
It’s also a far more affordable way for startups to access top talent. Not every company will have the budget to hire full-time team members for every function but using part-timers, freelancers, and contractors allows them to access the resources they need without having to come up with a full-time salary.
5. Work from anywhere won’t just mean from the local cafe.
Countries around the world are taking advantage of the move to remote work. Bali recently introduced visas that would allow people to work tax-free for 5 years. Croatia and Portugal each have a similar visa program. Closer to home, interstate migration numbers are showing that people are migrating to Queensland from every other state in Australia, particularly the Sunshine or Gold Coasts, as costs of living in the major capital cities get higher.
As part of our employee benefits, we have introduced a programme called Keeping Up with the Carters: a yearly budget for every employee to fly, stay, and work with any other team member around the world.
These kinds of initiatives may be expensive on paper but have a cultural ROI. They allow us to better understand the personalities of our team members, which is of considerable benefit when we return to asynchronous work. It also allows our international team members to feel like they are connected to the larger vision of the organisation, as well as sparking new ideas from a change in environment.
6. Co-working spaces will become more important.
Co-working spaces were always the hub of the startup ecosystem, and now that lockdowns are well and truly over, people need places to meet again. Places like WeWork are going to see a resurgence, but they will need to be flexible to meet the changing needs of startups now that we are all used to working from home more often.
We’ll also see smaller offices, but more of them. They’ll also be located around the world, giving employees in any country somewhere to meet face-to-face.
7. Being output focussed allows you to offer flexibility.
Employers will move towards an output focus because they’ll have to. Hours spent at a desk in an office will no longer be a proxy for productivity. Team members will also be able to enjoy increased flexibility because of this. No more scheduling your appointments on a Saturday. You’re probably logging on earlier anyway because you’re saving a couple of hours of commute each day.
While increased flexibility will be great for employees, communication will still be vital. You’ll need to be available for your team when they need you, even if you are working from the hairdresser that day.
“Bums in seats” as a proxy for productivity has historically served management too — output focussed management means having to set clear, achievable goals so that managing a team’s productivity is done via output rather than subjective “effort”.
8. Hybrid and flexible work will allow for more diverse teams.
Hybrid and flexible work has benefits beyond just being able to schedule that optometrist appointment on a Tuesday afternoon. Women in particular are benefitting from these trends, particularly those who are primary carers. Parents can get their kids off to school and start the workday without having to feel like they’ve already run a marathon, people who want to live remotely are still able to work in high-performing teams, and we’re able to bring together talent that might normally not be available to us.
While we’ve always emphasised diversity at Carted, hybrid and flexible work means we’re able to accommodate our team like never before.
While hybrid and flexible work is here to stay, in-person can help one to move faster.
At Carted, some of our best days as an organisation have been when we’ve been together as a team (our team offsite and our in-person planning sessions). As a startup that is trying to solve a massive problem, our team needs to be together in order to harness the incidental conversations, brainstorming, and ability to form relationships that allows us to ask deeper questions that come from being in person. To make sure we don’t lose this (or go slower than we need to), we’ll be:
- Coming together as a whole team as often as we can.
- Hiring in similar time zones so that teams can come together when they need to.
- Embracing hybrid working.
My dream state for Carted? Everyone would live near a satellite office with the opportunity to catch up in person regularly, with larger company-wide retreats that allow us all to be together.