The Real Questions About the Future of Work


As pools increasingly bring their teams back to the office, they're considering how their experiences with remote work might impact them over the long term.

This new article from 2016–17 Resident Futurist Rebecca Ryan includes a terrific diagram highlighting the importance of mission clarity and appropriate structure with respect to your return-to-work plans.

One key thought pertaining to pools: By definition, pools have phenomenal mission clarity — although it’s an area of opportunity for continuous improvement in internal communications. This means you can really focus on the top half of Rebecca’s diagram to ask which structure is most fitting for the outcomes and culture your pool desires. Consider talent recruitment, employee retention, operational results and anything else that’s particularly important to your pool.


In the past month, I have done a lot of media about the future of work (Fox 32 ChicagoNBC DaytonWGN ChicagoWisconsin Public RadioWJR Detroit.) Shout out to Tracy, Laura, and Hayley at River Strategies.

Most of these interviews center on questions like these.

  • Will we have more remote or hybrid work?
  • What about the boss who wants everyone to be in the office?
  • If employers save money by having employees work from home, will the company share those cost savings ($11,000 per employee per year) with employees?

These are great questions.

And they're missing a deeper issue.

Wise leaders will match their outward-facing "return to work" policy with two internal questions:

  1. How well do our employees understand our mission, how we work, and how their job aligns to our mission? (Clarity)
  2. What kind of structure (office hours, office space, etc.) is needed to attract and keep great talent, meet our objectives, and kick ass? (Structure)

That's it. Those two questions.

And because you know that my economist's brain loves an X/Y diagram, I drew this just for you:

Anything "above the line" in Q1 or Q2 will work because your team will have clarity on these factors:

  • Why does our organization exist? What business are we really in?
  • How do we get work done? What are the work flow processes that drive results?
  • What is my role, and how do I help us "win"?

If your employees know those answers, then your return to work can be as rigid or loose as you need, depending on the needs of your people and the organization.

But without Mission Clarity, it doesn't matter as much how rigid or loose your structure is. Simply offering remote work won't attract and keep talent.

What about you? Which quadrant is your team in, and how are you structuring the future of your workplace accordingly?