The Japanese technology multinational Fujitsu, which has a workforce of more than 80,000 in Japan, has announced “Work Life Shift”, a program that offers its workers in the country flexible hours and working from home as a first option whenever possible. In addition, it will halve its office space to adapt to the new normality that has emerged in the wake of the pandemic.
Fujitsu says it wants to design a new way of working that enables a more productive and creative experience for employees, drives innovation and delivers new value to customers and society. Initially, it will be an option, offering those who express the desire to continue working from the office the possibility of doing so. However, it is expected that after taking savings in travel time, comfort and productivity into account, the advantages of the new flexible work philosophy will be minimized.
What’s going to happen if large companies begin to see the advantages of offering flexibility and autonomy to their workers, having seen during the pandemic that this option was not only technologically possible, but also worked reasonably well? If we can work reasonably well under emergency conditions, what will we be able do when we abandon synchronous approaches and endless meetings, and instead develop ways of doing things that maximize the asynchronous?
Taking the step of turning your company into remote-first, that working from outside the office is always seen as the first and most reasonable option, implies a transition toward a reality that many companies are already experiencing, and that has many advantages: from attracting and retaining talent, to much higher levels of employee satisfaction.
The first result of this new approach is clear, and will mean readapting office space. I would not like to be involved in the real estate market in any major city right now, because it is very possible that there will be significant surpluses of property for corporate use. The second will affect traffic: 80,000 people working from home and not subject to specific schedules will impact transportation.
Fujitsu is not the first company to announce this kind of change: other technology companies are already offering their employees the option to stay remote during the rest of the year and, in some cases, to be able to continue doing so into 2021. Fujitsu will not be the last: in a short time we will see many more companies signing up to an idea whose value proposition has many spin-offs and in many directions. The pandemic has taught us that the workplace is not in an office or a desk with your name on it: instead, it’s whatever and wherever we want it to be. In no time, the idea of going to an office for eight hours or more will be obsolete, a distant memory of a way of working that lost most of its meaning when we realized that technology allowed us to do things better.