The Future of Work Is Now

Wharton Future of Work

As the world of work evolves, it is more important than ever to seek evidence rather than opinion when considering the questions of how, where, and when we work. This evidence was recently presented and discussed at the inaugural Wharton Future of Work Conference hosted by Wharton People Analytics.

World-class speakers included Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella talking with Professor Adam Grant; growth mindset pioneer Carol Dweck in conversation with Professor Angela Duckworth; organizational psychologist and APS Intelligence founder John Amaechi; and author Malcolm Gladwell. Each explored the world of work from their unique perspectives.

Topics included burnout, hybrid work, the great resignation, fair pay, diversity and inclusion, and the surprising power of regret. Acknowledging that the pandemic opened Pandora’s box in regards to traditional workplace options, the conference looked at how remote work has created seismic shifts.

Speakers discussed not only the economics of remote work but also its more intangible upsides for employees and employers. Questions were raised about who benefits from the new “normal” workplace, how businesses cannot afford to ignore the proven increase in productivity, and how a flexible workplace can serve as glue for employee loyalty and longevity.

Amaechi highlighted how being heard but not always seen cuts down on workplace micro-aggressions and creates a more equitable culture. He said simply not being in an office can level the playing field for those who may have traditionally been excluded from promotions and new opportunities.

Microsoft’s Nadella emphasized that as long-term trends stabilize, he believes the future of work will include greater flexibility. “Think of work from home as a dial, not a switch,” he said. “We are all still figuring it out as things evolve.”

He listed three points that are critical to work-from-home conversations:

  • Adaptation to some asynchronous work practices means nine-to-five work hours are no longer primary. Many people are working a “triple peak” day, adding a burst of work in the evening in addition to ones in the morning and afternoon.
  • The physical workspace is changing. Offices are actually a collaborative tool, and their use will become different but not obsolete.
  • The fact that companies during the pandemic onboarded many new employees shows the robustness of business. Nadella said Microsoft hired 50,000 new workers, many of whom work remotely.

As the future-of-work conversation evolves, Nadella said great office-based teams remain important, but great “teaming,” or working collaboratively with colleagues in newly defined physical and non-physical spaces, will drive success.

Watch the Future of Work Conference