Episode 38 – Research Insights: What the Data is Actually Saying about Remote Work – with Kate Lister
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, discusses the shift towards remote work and how organizations have been reacting. Kate shares her insights about the importance of moving from gut-based decisions to research-driven strategies and how remote work dramatically increased because of the pandemic. This conversation also highlights the significance of inclusive work practices for employers to retain their workforce. Kate says that it's an era of transformation for businesses, and leaders need to be more intentional, embrace transparency, and grasp the opportunities presented by the changing world of work.
Kate is a widely-recognized thought leader on workplace, workforce, technological, and other trends that are changing the who, what, when, where, and how of work.
She has been helping public and private sector employers optimize their remote, hybrid, and flexible work strategies for nearly two decades.
Kate’s recent client work includes the development and roll-out of hybrid/remote workplace and return-to-office strategies for a global law firm, an automotive industry giant, a regional insurance company, and a behemoth tech firm.
Kate produces a wide range of primary and secondary research and is a trusted source of insights about the future of work for news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and dozens of others. She has appeared on NPR, The Today Show, CNBC Nightly News, Voice of America, Fox News, and dozens of other TV and radio news programs.
As a resident of San Diego, Kate charges extra if she has to travel anywhere with temperatures over 75F or less than 65F, humidity greater than 75%, frequent rain, or bugs. She’s willing to make exceptions for Hawaii and New Zealand. She’s over-the-top nuts about dogs and gardening (as long as it’s not too hot out).
00:30 The shift towards remote work
04:15 Leaders tendency towards fear and control in remote work
07:49 The impact of the pandemic on remote work
14:27 How employees experience remote work
21:31 The reality of bias in leaders and the false consensus effect
26:02 #flexibilityisinclusivity and the risks of ignoring equity in remote work
31:24 The importance of data-driven research and avoiding gut decisions
34:27 The role of transparency and accountability in leadership
35:03 The future of distributed and remote work & where we need to go from here
Kate Lister headshot - Kate Lister
Global Workplace Analytics logo - Global Workplace Analytics
Circling the Wagons - Canva
Tug of War - Canva
Press Rewind - Canva
Factory Workers - Canva
Shamrock graphic - Canva
Hybrid Work, group surrounding talking screen - Canva
Hybrid Work, group sitting around screen - Canva
Stressed-out employee at desk - Canva
Employee packing up things - Canva
Tense employee at desk - Canva
Stressed employee leaning on wall - Canva
Chess game - Canva
Minority female working on laptop - Canva
Walking through gap - Canva
50/50 Wage Gap - Canva
Employee closing down laptop - Canva
Group of employees talking together - Canva
Mom remote working - Canva
Teenagers walking - Canva
Woman leaving office - Canva
Animated leadership pedestal graphic - Canva
Leader walking in front of employees - Canva
Throwing out money - Canva
Flashing lightbulb - Canva
Martha Johson - Wikipedia
Jack Nilles - LinkedIn
The Office, Michael Scott on floor - Giphy/NBC
Learn more about Kate Lister:
Highly sensitive executive coach and productivity catalyst, Clare Kumar, explores the intersection of productivity and inclusivity continually asking how can we invite the richest contribution from all. She coaches individuals in sidestepping burnout and cultivating sustainable performance, and inspires leaders to design inclusive performance thereby inviting teams to reach their full potential. As a speaker, Clare mic-drops “thought balms” in keynotes and workshops, whether virtual or in-person. She invites connection through her online community committed to designing sustainable and inclusive performance, the Happy Space Pod. Why? Because everyone deserves a Happy Space.
Believing that productivity is personal, the podcast is produced in a variety of formats so you can enjoy it in the medium you prefer:
Listen to the audio right here or on your fave podcast platform.
If you prefer to watch the video, check out the episode on YouTube.
If you prefer to read, please see the transcript below.
Ready to learn more, or want to find out more about coaching with Clare or hiring her for your next engaging event? Contact Clare here.
If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a heartfelt review as this will help other listeners discover the podcast. Please invite your colleagues, friends, and family to listen as well. Together we can design a more inclusive world where everyone can make their richest contribution.
And don't forget, everyone (including YOU) deserves a Happy Space.
Audio and Video Editing: Jaclyn Enchin
Production Assistant: Luis Rodriguez
Song Credit: Cali by WatR. from Pixabay
Women, minorities and other kind of disenfranchised populations are most drawn to remote work if they're the ones that are doing it. And if we don't solve for the equity problems. You know, being people being getting raises and promotion because they're seeing all the time. Those are very real risks. And so if we don't put the checks and balances in place to make sure that doesn't happen, then we're going to even widen the gap. And, you know, that that really scares me.
Clare Kumar: You're listening to episode 38 of the Happy Space Podcast. Today I speak with Kate Lister, founder of Global Workplace Analytics. You'll enjoy her candid take on the future of work.
Clare Kumar: Oh, I'm so excited for you to be joining me in this conversation. You're in for a treat. I'll be speaking with Kate Lister. She is the president and founder of Global Workplace Analytics. She and her team of researchers really do groundbreaking research on what's going on in the world and also what to expect and she's definitely got some ideas that you're going to want to hear today from understanding why leaders are clinging to control what they might do instead.
Some real optimism for continuing growth in the distributed form of work. That's her preferred term for remote work. And I fully agree with that term myself. I've worked in a distributed workforce many, many years ago. So became comfortable with dealing in an abstract format with no video to fall back on.
So I think that you're in for a treat today. Be sure to reach out on social media. You'll find the connections. My cat just turned off. Ellie, you just turned off the light. There we go. Let's fix that. Thanks, Ellie. He's here. You'll see cat cat appearances of both Theo and Ellie, probably, in this episode.
They both were here on my desk for parts of it. And you'll also see Kate's dog. So please enjoy this episode and meeting the wonderful Kate Lister.
Clare Kumar: Kate Lister, I am so thrilled and honored that you've taken some time to join me on the Happy Space podcast. You are the leader of global workplace analytics and quite frankly, a thought leader in the world in this conversation on the future of work. And I'm so very happy to have you here. Welcome.
Kate Lister: I'm delighted.
Kate Lister: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
Clare Kumar: My great pleasure. Now, listeners, you're in for a treat. And I think I have a billion questions, but I'm going to pare it down to a few. And I think one of the first ones is coming off We had a conversation not too long ago to prepare for this conversation, and I asked you what you thought was behind leaders moving towards mandates and sort of putting their thumb down.
Clare Kumar: And my hypothesis was that part of it might be due to A challenge around the abstract nature of managing work now. And you very clearly told me, I think it's about control and I, yeah. And I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit more on why you think leaders are there, what might be keeping them there?
Clare Kumar: And is there some element of fear involved that they need to move to control?
Kate Lister: Yeah. I, I think this has been the problem with. The concept of what we used to call it telework remote work for gosh, four or five decades. Jack Nilles invented the term in 1973. And ever since then, it's, you know, in the old days, you used to have all your, your minions, your, your people in front of you.
Kate Lister: You know, I picture the manufacturing plant and the balcony and the manager standing over his people and being able to see them. And we grew up with a lot of those principles. The people that are in those roles tend to be older, grayer, and, you know, probably have that kind of legacy feeling about how to manage.
Kate Lister: So when you get to now manage people you can't see, you've gotten used to managing by butts in seats, you know, you haven't really been managing. I call it babysitting. And unfortunately, when you start treating people like children, eventually, they'll act like children and not make their own decisions and not be autonomous.
Kate Lister: So I think a lot of it is legacy. And I would like to think that as younger people become managers, they won't have that legacy. The other possibility is that by the time they become the leaders, they'll have drunk the Kool Aid. And we'll be back at this again, because there are a lot of young leaders that are also saying, you know, I want you back in the office.
Kate Lister: I think you use the word abstract. I can't see people. I don't understand if they're working and it's part of the other problem is that most people who are managers. Became managers because they were good in some role they were probably good doers and then they're promoted to managers, but they're not prepared to be managers.
Kate Lister: And I think there's kind of this attitude that, it should be easy. This is not something we should have to train for. And it very much is whether it's in the office or out of the office managers need to be better trained.
Clare Kumar: I’m writing down managing the nature, the abstract nature of hybrid work.
I think that ought to be a new productivity workshop that I've been talking about leadership skills in the hybrid for a hybrid world, but this, this sense of managing work that you can't see, I think it is tougher. And I think it's the visual cues, you know, you could open your door. Not only would you see the people that relate to the task that you're meant to be on top of, but you also had that serendipitous interaction which I also think is much harder in the virtual world and requires a whole lot more intention to even get close to it.
So, yeah, so a couple of things there. Do you think there's any fear around this, the control piece? I was working with someone last year and they had a really amazing opportunity from a growth perspective and the immediate reflect what reflex was, I need all hands on deck. I need everybody back in the office.
Clare Kumar: And I, from my perspective, there was an absence of reflection and strategic thinking and planning. It was a real, Oh, I'm just going to get everybody back and then we'll figure it out rather than what do I really need to ask of everybody.
Kate Lister: I mean, sort of a circle the wagons thing and if you go back several years, you know, five years, seven years, some of the notable reversals on remote work, even then, were the companies that were in trouble. So everybody likes to point to best by bringing their people back. They were in deep financial trouble. When that happened, everybody points to the IBM and them recalling their remote workers. Gosh, I don't know, five, 10 years ago.
Kate Lister: And again, they
Clare Kumar: and Marissa Meyer and Yahoo. Remember 2013, I think. Yeah.
Kate Lister: And so, you know. Those companies, it's that circle the wagon. Let's get everybody together. Let's figure this out. And I think the other thing is leaders feel like they need to lead. Instead of saying, you know, we're going to think about this and we're going to test this and we're going to try some new things, they feel like they need to, you know, put a mark there and say, no, this is what we're going to do.
They don't, they're not good with ambiguity. They don't want to show ambiguity because it seems less decisive. And so, you know, there's a lot going on there. And I guess I did it too, pointing to the older managers, but I'm seeing it in younger managers too. It's, you know, part of it is not wanting to change.
I've heard from particularly older managers. Yeah, I've only got three or four years. I just want things to go back to normal.
Clare Kumar: Rewind. Rewind. I want to press rewind. Even if we can clearly say that rewind Rewinding wasn't good enough. What we would go back to wasn't necessarily working, right? One of the stats I show my leadership workshops is that 61 percent of people were lonely before the pandemic.
Clare Kumar: That's when you had the social connection and all of that. So I think there are other problems that potentially leaders are not wanting to see or admit to or address. And they think that just going back is going to fix it, but it's actually cultural redesign that's kind of necessary.
Kate Lister: Yeah Martha Johnson, when she was the head of the U.S. GSA, going back at least 10 years, maybe longer. But she piloted one of the very first programs of activity based work, Noah's Sign Desk when they were transforming the headquarter, GSA headquarters building in downtown D. C.
Clare Kumar: For our listeners, can you share what GSA is?
Kate Lister: I'm sorry, General Services Administration, the U.S. General Services Administration.
Clare Kumar: Thank you.
Kate Lister: And so they transformed a building that was intended for 2,500 to a building that held 4,000 people because of the addition of remote work and unassigned seating. And she had a line that I just loved remote work doesn't create management problems, it reveals them.
Clare Kumar: That's where that came from. That's such a good line. It
Kate Lister: is. And, and, you know, I think we can say the same thing of the pandemic in many ways. It revealed that managers weren't managing by results. It revealed that people were lonely, that people were stressed that culture was declining. I mean, all of those things that are now being blamed on remote work, the research shows were there, the trends were there beforehand.
Clare Kumar: Yes. Yeah. As was the trend for people to want remote work. I think we were at 4 percent or so beforehand. I was an early adopter way back in the late nineties. I, I really knew it was better for me, but we were seeing slow growth. What's your perspective on just by how many years did we advance the trajectory that was already in play for remote work.
Kate Lister: Yeah, I mean, it was growing at about 10 percent a year for the last maybe 20 years, which when you hear something like it grew 115%, well, 100% of a very small number is still a pretty small number.
And at the time before the pandemic, five to 10 years, all of the research that we would do showed that about 70 to 80% of people wanna work from home at least part of the time. After the pandemic. So the desire has always been there and therefore that gap is what I would say is the acceleration, you know, to, to.
Kate Lister: To have reached that level from 5 percent to, to 75 percent is just, it's huge. Yeah. And it's the sudden nature of it. You know, this wasn't supposed to happen overnight. Even, even I who've been pushing this rock uphill for almost two decades, you know, I never anticipated and, and never wanted because it didn't.
It didn't give people time to prepare. I mean, if we were talking to a company prior to the pandemic about launching a hybrid or remote work program for the word distributed, however, it would have been a 6 to 12 month. Program that included, you know, surveys and change management and observation and, you know, all kinds of training-
Clare Kumar: And skill building. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Kate Lister: We felt exactly we felt pretty good about it, you know, which kind of made me feel bad because I've been if it's that easy. Why do we need a consultant to do it. But the fact is it wasn't that easy, it could feel like it was working. Yeah, exactly. You know, and that maybe would get you to 60%.
Kate Lister: And I feel like that's where we are right now. Companies are saying, well, you know, it worked pretty well. We'll just continue to do that. But that's not going to optimize the practice. And what they're leaving on the table is you know, productivity and fear and loneliness and the opportunity to use this new way of working to actually improve the way we worked.
Clare Kumar: I totally agree with you. I totally agree with you. Yeah, it's the opportunity that I think. When, when I look at the stalemate that's at play right now in this tension tug of war, I think we've got to detangle that and start to get back to an optimistic message of there's opportunity here. If we're willing to exhale a little and step away from the control reflex, there's real opportunity and redesign potential.
Clare Kumar: But I think people, my perception is that people aren't sure how to get at it. Do you have a sense of that?
Kate Lister: Yeah, they either don't know it and if they do, they don't really know what to do about it. You know, I kind of equate it to when we first got cell phones, you only use them in the house, or when we first got smartphones, we only used them to make phone calls, right?
Kate Lister: So now we have all these new ways of working, but we really haven't changed the practices and the processes. We've used technology to replicate the way we were doing things in the past, rather. Then improve. Everybody talks about reinventing the water cooler. Who said the water cooler was was a good thing to begin with?
Kate Lister: You know, there's lots of evidence to suggest. It wasn't that. It was very exclusive and, you know, I think the biggest example of this right now is how we do hybrid meetings. We learned during the pandemic that people who didn't feel like they had a voice at the table when they were the one hybrid, one distributed person and everybody else was in the room, suddenly they felt included.
Kate Lister: Yes. And it was also more inclusive of people that don't speak up in meetings, you know, so whether you're introverted, whether it's not a first language, English is not a first language, whether you're neurodiverse whether you're a junior employee and you're intimidated, whether there's a bully in the room, you know, or whatever, we can make that better by using some of the techniques we learned during the pandemic.
Kate Lister: Most companies learn during the pandemic. But I'm not seeing a lot of that happening.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I'm seeing I'm seeing a lot of frustration and I'm seeing different things happening in different offices. My daughter's interviewing for different jobs. So I'm hearing a little bit about some of the modern workplaces through her a little bit now.
And one place that she was looking at has a different team coming in. On a specific day of the week. So they've shrunk their footprint. I'm assuming they've shrunk their footprint, but and I said, can you choose your date? Nope. It has to be, the team is going in on that day and that's the day of the week.
And it's only one day. And I thought it was so interesting because as a young person, you know, starting to navigate work, do I buy a car? Do I not buy a car? Do I Uber there? Do I not like the logistics around. The construct of work, what I'm trying to get to in a question here is that employers, I don't know how much they think about.
Clare Kumar: What is around somebody taking a job, they think a lot about the vision, the values, the mission, they might think about the alignment of that person, but the whole construct of work can be what blows up a job being a suitable fit for someone. Right. And I'm wondering what you're noticing in there in terms of the consciousness of organizations around looking at what we're inviting people to.
Kate Lister: I guess we're calling it workplace experience. And that means different things to different people in the, in the corporate real estate arena, which is kind of. where I come from. It's about, you know, how do we make the office an attractive place to come? How do we, how do we recreate the office so that it supports the kind of work that people are actually going to be doing here?
Kate Lister: And so that's not sitting behind a desk and sitting alone. It's going to be more collaborative. So we need more social areas, but we can't forget those private areas because when you come in to do social work, social work, but collaborative work, you're not going to do it all day. You know, you're, you still need a place to check out a place to do heads down work.
Kate Lister: So it, it, it worries me a little bit that we're going to, the pendulum's going to swing too far. From the HR side, when we talk about the employee experience, it's just as you say, I mean, your experience with an organization starts before you even apply, you know, it starts with your impressions in the market of, is this a good company?
Kate Lister: You know, what have I heard about them? Do they, you know, did they get slapped for something that they did?
Sorry, my coworker here. Because this is happening here right now.
Clare Kumar: I thought I saw the tail or Eli, I'm here for it. You know, almost every conversation who just joined us from YouTube listeners. Kate's dog just walked behind the screen. I have all the patients for pets.
Kate Lister: Yeah, that was Waldo. There's two others hanging around here somewhere.
Clare Kumar: That's one of the things I love about the fact that I think the pandemic gave us a lens on seeing each other's lives more fully as long as we don't commit to blurring our background, the way we blur our days sometimes. I think there's a real opportunity to connect more deeply. So I've never seen Waldo. Yeah. I mean, you know, early on in the pandemic, the CEOs, you know, sat down in their armchair and reached out to people, talked to people. They became human and we, you know, we could all see one another's lives.
Kate Lister: And it sort of made it a lot harder to forget that we're people. You know?
Clare Kumar: Do you think we've lost that now?
Kate Lister: I do. I mean, I thought we, I think we lost it in the first year of the pandemic. We stopped communicating, you know, we stopped having those town halls and having those heartfelt conversations with the, with leadership.
Kate Lister: And I, you know, I think that's a, that's a real mistake. What were we talking about before the dog walked into the scene?
Clare Kumar: Yes, we were talking about the HR experience. Thank you for that. Good thing I jot down notes.
Kate Lister: I mean, so it starts very early on and then what's the on board? What's the application process? You know, if it's a really bad process, you're gonna get a, a feeling about it. Yeah. What, what's the, the onboarding? What's your first day like? What's the office like? What are, you know, all of those things. And so, you know, that I think we need to pull those experiences together.
There's a very strong tend tendency toward, there's HR, there's IT, there's real estate, there's sustainability and all of this. If we really want to optimize work, we have to cross those silos and start working together to really give people the opportunity to be their best.
Clare Kumar: Love that.
Clare Kumar: I love that. I don't think traditionally that's been there. There's the silos. Big silo.
Kate Lister: Oh, we don't talk to those people over there in HR. Yeah. We hear it all the time. And the HR people say, what are those real estate people involved in this for? I don't see why real estate has anything to do with how we work.
Clare Kumar: So it's not a full enough understanding of the overlap potentially of the roles and how we can, you know, really envelop the employee with a lot of really intentional thought. If we, you know, if we start to enmesh those silos a bit.
Kate Lister: Yes, exactly. And, you know, I was hopeful that because the pandemic kind of lofted this whole conversation to the C suite, you know, when in the New York Times front page, did you start reading about workplace trends before the pandemic?
You know, nobody was talking about those kinds of things, but now it was a C suite conversation. It was a strategic conversation. How, how can we strategically pull this in? Not, not in the first year, maybe even the second year, but certainly in the third year. What's the strategic value of this rather than what's the tactical value of it?
Increasing attraction and retention, reducing costs, reducing absenteeism, increasing sustainability, you know, those are all very siloed things. And I think for some companies they get it. And even before the pandemic, the ones that were early adopters, they got it, that this is a whole new way of working.
And we need to be looking at it very differently, regardless of where people work. I mean, there's nothing that I would recommend a company do. To accommodate or to improve remote work that I wouldn't recommend they do, even if nobody worked remotely,
Clare Kumar: I hear you. I hear you. I'm wondering if leaders understand that this control response, it's applying pressure. It's applying pressure.
So it might have short term gains to get, you know, get somebody to do what you want them to do in that moment. But the long term is building resentment. And then ultimately, people will choose to leave if it doesn't really suit the way they're working, and I have to think, leaders that can't be a blindness to that basic understanding that, you know, if you were a teenager and your parents told you not to do something, you wanted to do it and you were going to find a way like this to me is I'm stuck on how we can be in this position where leaders can't see it.
Kate Lister: Yeah. Well, I think the personality of a lot of leaders is one that is very self-oriented. And now to ask them to, you know, be more empathetic is something that just isn't really in their nature. I can't name the name of the company, but I was to do a webinar. I was moderating a panel and one of the women on the panel was the head of HR for a very large company.
The night before her CEO had made a very disparaging announcement about remote work that, you know, it was just no good. We were not going to do that. And so like in the, you know, green room before, before we went on, it's like, can I ask you about that? I mean, that was pretty severe.
And she said, yeah, I mean, the reality is that he honestly believed that his people wanted to come in. Even though they've shown him the surveys that they did, he honest, I mean, he just didn't consider that anybody could not be like him.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I call it the false consensus effect, right? This is where the leader thinks, Oh, I work this way.
I ran into it last week. There was an executive breakfast morning and someone said, well, I do all my great admin at home, but any real work, I only do real work in the office. And I said, I'm glad you used the word bias because that's exactly what that is. Yeah. I said, somebody else could have a hundred percent flip to that.
I do great admin in the office. My real work happens at home. And it was like, boof, it was just like a mic drop thing. And I think, is it conversation by conversation? We're going to have a little aha moments where leaders start to recognize, because to me, that was a profound opportunity to have a moment where that topic came up and we were able to talk about it and I was able to just like, call it right there.
Kate Lister: Yeah. I think that. The media loves to say bad things, you know, that to pump up all the bad news. Right. Eyeballs to advertisers. Yes. Back when Yahoo made its announcement, IBM made its announcement, you know, headlines. There were no headlines around the companies that were doing it really well.
Kate Lister: Yeah. And there aren't a lot of headlines now around the companies that are doing it really well. So we're really tainted by that. What's the bias confirmation bias, every time there's a new company that comes out the CEO who doesn't who wants people back in the office to see, see they're not looking at the other stories.
And you know, the sad thing is that even if they change their mind Yeah. They're still going to be perceived negatively by the employees that didn't want to come back. So, you know, we bring them back. We bring them back. We realized this was a mistake. Okay. We're going to change. We're going to let them work remotely.
Kate Lister: That anger is still there. I mean, it's like if somebody had a layoff, you know, it just taints your opinion of that organization going forward, regardless of what they do now.
Clare Kumar: It may inform everything about what I'm doing now in my life. Actually, you hit the nail on the head. It's like, Oh my gosh, it took me a long time to realize that at my departure from my corporate job because of a lack of flexibility.
I'm like, You know what? The subway doors are opening. I'm getting in this car. We're having this conversation because the minds that I'm hoping to change to open to possibility here will just enable so many more people to contribute. And I, you know, I'm hoping my old boss is paying attention to what I'm doing.
I have no idea we're connected on LinkedIn, so I'm hoping that some of this may be getting through. It was interesting. I reached out to my senior vice president at the time to understand what had happened. I was told that. So quick story. I was working for a telecom company, so we were selling the company that equipped you to work from home, ironically, and my job, I did a key task analysis, which is now part of the program that I'm implementing with teams where you look at your work and you say, where does this work?
You know, where can I best do this work? And how is this work being done? 90 percent of my job was on the phone. It was phone calls. It was teleconferences. It was phone calls. So I said, you know what? I'll come in 50 percent of the time. And for any time you need a meeting, I'll come in. Hard no. Just not, just not open to it.
Clare Kumar: And so I talked to the senior vice president just a couple of years ago saying, you know, this was 2007, 2008. I said, what was going on then? Because I, you know, I was making it work. Two small kids, they were three and five years old. I just was figuring out how to make my life work and contributing fine, no performance issues.
She said- oh, I think we wanted, then we wanted everybody's to be in the office for mentorship. We want, and I said, okay, that word was never used the year that I was there. There was no structure. There was no conversation about it. This was just supposed to ooze out of me, you know? So it struck me as really.
I have some strong feelings, obviously, about what happened then. And now I'm seeing, you know what? We really need to crack this conversation wide open so that we can see more people contribute to the workforce. Like the number of people with disabilities, there's been never more in the workforce.
Because of flexibility, right? I often talk about flexibility is inclusivity. Right. I challenge leaders when I'm talking with them, and I wonder if this ever comes up for you, what are your perspectives and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion? Are you still talking about it?
Have you gone and totally into DEI coma, or are you, are you still giving this the attention that you know, from a business perspective makes sense? What are you, what are you seeing around that conversation?
Kate Lister: That's one of the things I'm worried most about because women, minorities and other kind of disenfranchised populations are most drawn to remote work if they're the ones that are doing it.
And if we don't solve for the equity problems. You know, being people being getting raises and promotion because they're seeing all the time. Those are very real risks. And so if we don't put the checks and balances in place to make sure that doesn't happen, then we're going to even widen the gap. And, you know, that that really scares me.
It's, it's not hard, but it's different. And it has to be very intentional and yes. It's good, regardless of whether or not people are all together or distributed. Absolutely. This intentionality about inclusion and all the processes, no matter where somebody is, that's part of the training. That's part of the leadership development management skills that need to be in place.
I'm feeling like we don't spend quite as much time on the how as we should. We spend a lot of time on the tasks and the strategic plan and the so on, and we have the team, but how we're actually going to get at this, we don't spend quite enough time thinking about.
Kate Lister: Yeah I've been thinking a lot lately about the whole, you know, what's going to change in the market and what is that going to do to the future of this distributed work we've seen for probably the last two recessions that people who leave or laid off often pick up freelance work or start their own business or now the gig economy makes that even easier.
And after each recession, fewer and fewer people are coming back. It used to be that recession ends, people go back to the office. That's not happening because they found the freedom.
And they like it. And they, I think in particular with the pandemic, because we had so long to experience it, it's just become ingrained. When you're in a really stressful job, sometimes you don't know it until you get off, you get out of it. And then you look back and you go. I commuted for two hours every day.
I traveled all over the world. I can't believe that. And it's like, no, that's not, that's not me anymore.
And so I think in the longer run, we're going to see increase in the gig economy. Charles Hardy, Hardy or Handy, it's Handy. Back in the 1960s talked about a shamrock organization where there is kind of group of really key players that run the organization.
But then there's this whole outsourced. Area of maybe H. R. Maybe facilities management, maybe legal. And then there's this other the other pedal of the shamrock. It was in his terms, freelancers. But now it's the gig economy. And I honestly think that that's where we're going because if we really want to, to be the best we can be, then we've got to get all the crap that we do the 80 percent of work that we do on a daily basis off our plates.
I think artificial intelligence is going to make that easier. I think the combination of internal and external talent markets is gonna make that work. So we go out and we hire a contractor when there's people right here in our organization that could do the work. I look for the day where I'm typing and doing, doing a PowerPoint presentation, you know, planning it and everything, and the keyboard shakes and it says, you know what, you're not very good at this.
There's also 10 vetted contractors with their names right here, already have a contract with them that would love to do that. And by the way, did you also know that Clare, your colleague just did a presentation on this. You know, why don't, why don't you go talk to her? You know, we don't have a handle on the internal talent and the internal knowledge.
There are some companies that are moving toward this. And I think it's going to be a game changer.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, I do too. I do too. I think there's a lot to be optimistic about, but it's going to take some intention and, and noticing some real noticing. I think of what the opportunities are.
Kate Lister: I'm hearing some noise in the market.
Clare Kumar: Are you? Yeah. Yeah. What's what would you like to say to a leader? Who's listening that has their ear to the ground on inclusivity and in productivity, but is not sure they're slightly tired? What would your invitation to them be?
Kate Lister: Do the research, you know, don't act on gut. When I walk into a leader, you know, the first thing they tell me is it's reducing productivity. It's hurting our innovation is dampening our culture. It's reducing engagement. And I say, really, did you measure those things? And none of them have and so we just have to again be very intentional about not making those gut assumptions.
What was the word you used earlier? The bias.
Clare Kumar: Oh, false consensus effect.
Kate Lister: Because there's just too much of that happening and there are plenty of things to worry about in the increase in hybrid work and distributed work. Plenty of things. They're focusing on the wrong ones.
Those are not the problems. The research says those are not the problems. If they are, if you, if you actually measure it in your organization, then do something about it then. But don't just, you know, make multi million dollar decisions that affect thousands and thousands of people's lives. Yes. Based on a gut feeling.
Clare Kumar: And my sense is people are making those decisions without having any estimate of the cost of that decision. So you make that decision in the interest of the business. But if you didn't know what the cost of that decision would be, how can you actually honestly say that?
Kate Lister: The human cost. I assume you're talking about.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, absolutely. People leaving or checking out, checking out or burning out or quietly quitting or whatever, you know, whatever lesser lessening of engagement will happen because of all of those things. It's, you're going to have a consequence, an undetended consequence that you didn't budget for, and that's going to surprise you in unexpected ways.
Kate Lister: And before long, you're also going to have to report it to your shareholders, you know, the S in ESG. That's right. You know, we're going to be. Reporting human capital measures. How much training do you do every year? What's their flexibility in your workforce? You know, they haven't really decided what those metrics will be yet.
But one company that's very proud of those things starts to brag about them in their annual report. Others are going to follow suit.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. And we had a couple of banks in Canada just agree to do racial equity audits of the way they deliver service. One bank's already done it for the way they treat their employees, shareholder driven.
So yeah, you know, I guess leaders have their domain, but they have to look outside their domain and say, who, what are people caring about in the broader collective? And it's the, I'm finding it's the individual connections to disability, to neurodivergence, to caregiving, to menopause, to whatever it is that opens somebody's thinking.
And now they care. And now so it's happening. We're in a we're in an absolutely shifting environment and leaders who really want to make the most of the opportunity now had better listen to that.
Kate Lister: Yeah. I mean, it's a convergence also of the transparency, just how transparent it is anymore. If you do something bad, it's going to come out in the news. You can't get away with that stuff anymore.
Clare Kumar: That's right. That's right. Which is wonderful, right? We've got some accountability, some built in accountability. So, yeah, so I think leaders if you haven't followed Kate's work at Global Workplace Analytics, Please go there because she's a fount of research and insight and consulting services.
Clare Kumar: And I, I love following you on LinkedIn. There's always something wise and wonderful coming from Kate. So please, if you've enjoyed this episode you'll find out where to connect with Kate on social media and LinkedIn and so on, let us know what resonated with you. Let us know if you're going to take.
Clare Kumar: Change what you're doing if you're going to do some of that research that Kate was talking about. Any final words? I'm just so thrilled to have spent time with you today.
Kate Lister: Well, it's mutual. You know, I like the things that you write about. I like the things that you think about. We just need to get more people talking about them.
Clare Kumar: Amazing. To a fabulous journey together trying to change the world.
Kate Lister: Thanks so much, Kate. Alright. Take care.