The 2020s will be dynamic, automated and set with more uncertainties than we’ve been used to at work in recent times. Those who continue with a traditional mindset, especially in industries where innovation is key, will slowly lose their place in the workplace to those with an entrepreneurial mindset.

The demand for innovation is high, thinking like an entrepreneur is a great asset as company leaders aim to match the high-performance of smart thinking and fast-moving start-ups, irrespective of the size of the organization.

Innovation needs to come in many forms. We’re starting to be evaluated on the impact we bring to a business rather than the outdated deliverables tied to the 40-hour week. We all need to adapt ourselves to deliver entrepreneurial value. Take risks. Take ownership. Adopt a design thinking mindset. Strong team collaboration is key for individuals and businesses to achieve their full potential in 2025 and beyond.

I consider myself to be one of a new generation of ‘entre-employees’. The digital world moves too fast to sit back. It is also not in my nature to be static. Brazilian by birth, I consider myself to be international in mindset. When I graduated from university, I was not ready to settle into a career. I had and still have a wanderlust. Not only is this a desire to travel the world, but to travel in new directions.

 

Journey to the digital future of work

My first journey as a graduate was to the United States. Here I absorbed myself in the culture and improved my English. I also studied project management at NYU so I could start my career journey. When I returned to Brazil, I joined CI&T as a project leader in 2007.

Even in 2005, when I was working remotely from Brazil for a company in New York, everything apart from signing the contract at a lawyer’s office in Sao Paulo was remote – from the interview to demos. All meetings using Skype. This was the first time I caught a glimpse of what I knew would be the future of working. I was partially right, but not completely.

Moving forward on my career journey, I started to take on more managerial roles. This meant working with distributed teams across the globe. I then, in 2012, took the option to move physically to the UK. As a Project Manager, I needed to be on-site at the client’s office. I also needed to work with my team in Brazil and to set-up and manage a new team in China. Technology meant that I could be present and work effectively in three countries.

 

Learning the language of international communication

Perhaps the greatest challenge was, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, managing multicultural teams. Culture has a big influence on how we communicate and how we interpret what is communicated to us. On top of this, different personality types have different expectations. We all know that context can be lost over email and without body language it can be difficult to pick up on nuances.

I had to learn to communicate differently with each team. Negotiating, aligning, or simply following up was different when dealing with the team in the U.S. versus the team in China, for example. As time has gone on and people in general have become more used to digital communication, how ‘we’ work remotely has enhanced exponentially.

As Gen Z hits the workplace, a generation that has grown up with YouTube and access to an international media, it’s likely an international way of communicating in a work context will evolve and many of the challenges faced by organizations and people becoming international will be gone.

 

The human effect – balancing remote with onsite work

Innovation is critical to business success as we approach and move forward from 2025. Collaboration and productivity apps will permit remote working with ever greater effectiveness. However, we can’t overlook the human impact of more and more remote working.

We must continually ask the questions:

  • Is remote working always best for productivity and employee satisfaction?
  • What impact does remote employment have on wellbeing?
  • How are employees and employer benefiting and do we need to review?

Many of the long-standing barriers to remote working have been countered by technology. It is more than possible to do. However, no technology, however sophisticated, can counter the power of “face-to-face” interaction and the value of human interaction shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, video conferencing tools are much more personable than a phone call, and it is a happy medium, but it should not be to the exclusion of in-person interactions.

And remember, even though you probably went to several conferences or events recently where business highlighted how important the new Customer-Centric strategy is, we also need to give the same important to our people. Being Employee-Centric is what will make organizations achieve desired results.

 

The importance of work environment

According to a 2018 survey by UK office design and build company, Peldon Rose, 95% of people stated their work environment is important for wellbeing and mental health. The Global Wellness Institute, forecasts that $52.2 billion dollars will be invested by 2022 on workplace wellbeing.

With so much focus on how technology is driving change, we can’t overlook where and how we’re going to work. Many of us feel energised when working in collaboration with others, face to face in a great environment and this consequently improves productivity and quality of work.

Will the upcoming coworking spaces such as “Working From_” by The Hoxton, Work Malls in the US and ideas from IKEA’s Innovation Lab, bring the desire for employees to work together on a location?

Kelly Robinson, workplace designer from New York said, “As the life between work and personal life blurs, the workplace is becoming an extension of who people are – and companies must be value-aligned with their employees.”

I personally work remotely more than 50% of the time. However, I do prefer to book strategic meetings in-person. I feel that there are particular meetings that are just best led on-site. For instance, an initial meeting with a client should be face-to-face, even if no subsequent meetings are. This enables you to create a much deeper rapport with the audience. This also enables us to realise natural question and answer scenarios. These are essential if we’re to evolve as entre-employees.

 

Collaboration is the future

To win in the next decade, we need to be collaborating; our ideas and our skills. The future is not for silos. We can only be the best us if we explore our full potential regardless if you are working remotely or not. We need to be challenged and stretched. We need to look beyond our comfort zones. We need to be ready and able to be better than the rest. Few of us can do this without collaboration.

Regardless of how we choose to work, the best successes will come if we have the sensation that we’re part of an organization. One that combines all the benefits of remote working with the culture of the most dynamic and enabling workplace – may this be virtual, physical or a combination of all. You might be employed, self-employed or part of the growing instances of “skills banks” but as I began this blog, as the demand for innovation grows, thinking like an entrepreneur is key.

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Rafael Rossioli, Senior Program Manager at CI&T