Steelcase CEO Discusses The Future of Work

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In a conversation with the Detroit Economic Club, Jim Keane, president and CEO of Steelcase Inc., shared his thoughts on what the future of work looks like.

With many employees still working from home, people are missing in-person collaboration and “moments of spontaneous interaction” that keep teams connected. What is most important now is creating a sense of structure a traditional work environment provides and establishing defined separation of home and work life.

Whether working from home or an office, the professional landscape will continue to evolve.

Working Remotely

Working from home is no longer a temporary solution – it will be more engrained in the workforce than ever before. To accommodate safety practices and changing employee priorities, employers will need to be more flexible to part-time or fully remote schedules. In terms of space itself, Keane cites significant increases in needs for more comfortable, customizable home offices with ergonomic set-ups and proper tools like supportive chairs and height-adjustable monitors.

Back at the Office

As some companies venture back or have already started transitioning into the office, teams have the opportunity to make their spaces a competitive advantage. Beyond safety precautions and increased distancing and cleaning protocols, Keane explained trends like meeting spaces better suited for remote participants and microarchitecture – creating smaller, more discrete spaces for individuals to work.

Recreating Culture

Company culture has always been important, but with more teams working apart, maintaining a strong, unified team dynamic is more challenging. Keane recommends that leaders conduct more one-on-one meetings with team members, hosting shorter, more efficient meetings, as well as providing employees with opportunities to share their input with leaders. Further, it’s crucial for leaders to ensure remote participants feel heard and actively involved and that opportunities for coaching and development aren’t forgotten and approached more intentionally.

Crisis Management

Finally, as teams encounter ongoing uncertainty and new business challenges, strategies to mitigate crises must be even nimbler. According to Keane, it’s important to delegate and define decision making roles – preparing upfront and trusting team leads to make the right calls at the right time. Empowering teams with plans and support before crisis strikes enables them to handle crises in a timely fashion despite the communication challenges the separation of remote work may pose.

View the full conversation.

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