A dog pooped in my driveway today. Its owner is entirely to blame for the mess that I had to clean up, but it did get me thinking about the future of work.
We have a glass box front to our home. Within the glass front is a metal staircase. I often find myself walking upstairs to my home office, only to stop and admire some four-legged creature on a run with its beloved master. If my four-legged child, Olaf, happens to be perched on the landing which is one of his favourite spots, then we enjoy the view together and he gets all excited at the potential friends on his front lawn. Or he gets super alpha and all territorial: depending on the breed of dog.
So today was no different … Walking upstairs, coffee in hand. See running owner and greyhound approaching. Stop to admire. Greyhound pulls its owner over in order to complete its business. Owner glances around nervously, sheepishly shrugs their shoulders and continues her run down the sidewalk, pulling the greyhound along in an effort to get away from the poop pile as fast as possible.
My walk upstairs to continue my work is halted. I go back to my kitchen and find poop bags. I go outside and clean up, only to discover that the poop is not the kind that picks up in a clean motion … it’s slightly runny and leaves traces behind. I again go back into the kitchen, this time to retrieve a scrubbing brush and to connect the water hose on the side of the house.
And just like that: my afternoon pivots midway through as I find myself scrubbing cement at 1:25 PM on a random summer weekday afternoon. In a skirt and heels, I might add, while taking into account that I have an in-person interview to attend in an hour.
This little incident represents, in a microscopic format, the future of work we’re subtly entering … it is not so much the future as what it is the present unfolding:
1. Our Work is Traceable Everywhere
Whether we like it or not: the workplace is now a glass box through which every action of ours is being observed in real-time. Software-as-a-Service applications in the cloud have forever changed how work is being done. Work used to be in-person and offline. Today this is the absolute exception. Today work is online, real-time and happening continuously in micro-spurts. This means that every element of work is traceable. We leave a digital-work-footprint every single day as we log in and out of systems, and conduct our work there.
Like my glass-fronted-home, work is a transparent space where my co-workers, managers, and fuller team get to see me running with all my work-dogs in tow.
Bettercloud, a technology company which enables businesses to monitor all their SaaS application usage, elegantly breaks down how SaaS has changed not only IT, but work as whole. The stats shared in this article highlight just how many systems we are traversing inside work today.
2. We Are All Accountable to the Invisible Customer
In my dog poop incident, the customer happened to be my little daughter. She was coming to pick something up out of the post box that afternoon with her gran and I absolutely did not want either of them to have to navigate poop, to get to the postbox, which contained her passport that she was collecting.
The dog runner, without knowing it, was responsible for my little girl’s experience. Her actions could’ve created a really bad experience, or at best, they could’ve created a totally neutral experience.
I, as the silent observer of the scene, was serving the customer too. I knew she would show up. I knew she would not enjoy the smell or the sight and so I cleaned up.
The customer herself appeared that afternoon, retrieved her passport from the postbox, none the wiser about what had happened leading up to that moment.
The only person who understood, and had visibility on the full situation, was me. My little customer’s experience was my top priority. In heels and a skirt, I knelt down and scrubbed a cement sidewalk.
The reality of most workplaces today is that like the greyhound owner, we aren’t prepared to scoop poop on our morning run. We don’t take bags because they’re a nuisance to run with, and so we run, hoping our dog won’t poop. When it does poop, we look around sheepishly, hoping no one is watching, and we keep running, pretending what happened didn’t just happen because let’s face it, the alternative of ringing the bell, asking for poop bags and offering an apology is harder, less convenient and not attractive.
The modern world of work is not forgiving towards the unprepared. It is demanding of us to be:
- Thinking two steps ahead of the potential situations we may encounter: this is empathy in living action. Empathy has been identified as one of the most critical future skills individuals will need to possess.
- Considering the invisible customer we do not even know by honing our question skills to consider the customer we never thought to consider.
- Aware of the glass box we operate in and how our actions butterfly-effect outwards and ripple into other people’s days, changing their courses of actions. This is visual thinking: closing our eyes and considering how the dog poop might just impact the family living at the end of the driveway.
If we are unwilling to do the above, we create costs and losses for the team, the business and the community. We lose customers, we cut profits and most importantly we damage brand reputation.
This is why The Future Job’s Index rates Customer Experience as one of the top 3 skills required in this new world of work, which is our present reality.
3. Work Feels Chaotic for Us
I had my task list written out for today. One of the items did not include “clean up dog poop” and yet at 1:25 PM there I was doing exactly that. Every day this happens … something collides into the plan and sends us down work trails we did not anticipate. This does not happen once or twice, but often hundreds of times over a day.
Just today I kept a tally of how many times I was “interrupted” by requests and nudges by the team. It is midday and I am already on request number 25.
Many people feel frazzled at work. This is why – we are on. We are accessible. We are expected to collaborate. This is the new way of working. Is it bad? It can be, but there are multiple counter-arguments showing why it isn’t. However, from my vantage point, it isn’t bad as much as that it is new and thus requires a mind- and- attitude shift to embrace and develop the commensurate skillsets required to handle it.
Inside this chaos, we are expected to not only handle the constant nudges, but also consider the invisible customer, whilst under scrutiny by our whole team.
The future of work demands a lot. It requires a higher level of being human. This is why human acceleration matters. This is why customer success matters.
Both are skillsets the future demands. Not requests, but demands.
Are you willing to rise to the challenge?