Head of Distributed Work at Atlassian
Companies that have adopted permanent remote working policies during the pandemic are doubling down on flexibility commitments as big companies like Google and Twitter are calling employees back to their offices this month.
But it’s only a matter of time before in-person requirements become obsolete, says Annie Dean, who leads distributed workforce strategy at Atlassian, an Australia-based software company. “This conversation will feel very outdated as the next generation of leaders ascends into the workplace,” she told CNBC Make It, adding that “in the future, work is not a place. can happen anywhere”.
In August 2020, Atlassian introduced a work-from-anywhere policy that allows its 7,388 employees to relocate to another city or country where the company is established. Employees can “choose whether or not they come into an office – period.”
Certainly Atlassian as a business benefits from the needs of distributed workplaces. It’s behind tools like Jira and Trello that help teams work in the cloud. Dean says working remotely helps the company create better products for other teams like them: “We want to solve problems before the customer and create technology to support this change in the global economy,” says- she.
She adds that Atlassian’s “Team Anywhere” policy has helped the company grow. It has hired nearly 2,000 new staff since the policy was introduced, and almost half of new hires live two hours or more from an office.
The company is not getting rid of offices but rather investing in revamping two main hubs in Austin and Sydney to reopen this summer. “It doesn’t take away office space for people who want to be there,” Dean says.
Some leaders are backtracking on flexibility as key to the future of work, despite its support at the start of the pandemic. According to Microsoft research that interviewed 31,102 people worldwide.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently shared his views on why office work is better, saying “I don’t know how you build good management” virtually.
Dean isn’t worried about most workers’ ability to adapt to working remotely, but acknowledges that managers who have learned to lead in person will need to learn new skills. “Change is hard,” she says, and “investments need to be made to help people who developed management skills in the old paradigm move to a new paradigm.”
As younger generations progress through leadership in the workplace, Dean says that “digital collaboration natives will have no trouble using Confluence and Zoom and Muro and Slack together. This asynchronous format will be completely second nature to them, just like chatting around the water cooler felt second-nature 20 years ago.”
That said, “we don’t claim to have all the right answers” about the future of work, Dean says. “Anyone who says they do that doesn’t know the whole story.”
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