The Future of Work is Dynamic: Going Beyond Distributed and Remote Work

When we kicked off 2020, more people were working remotely than ever before. 54% of U.S. workers reported working remotely at least once per month, 48% at least once per week, and 30% full-time, a significant change from just a few years ago when 44% of global companies didn’t allow remote work at all. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world, millions more people suddenly started working from home for the first time, and companies are figuring out ways to adapt and ensure productivity, connectivity, and security—quickly.

At Okta, more than 30% of our workforce was working remotely even before the pandemic, so we’ve been thinking about how to optimize for a distributed workforce for a while. About a year ago, we made a corporate decision to not just support remote work, but to build a more agile, flexible workstyle into our culture. We call this Dynamic Work. It’s more than just letting employees work from home and ensuring they have the necessary tools to do so. It’s rethinking how and where we hire as an organization, how our offices are designed, our global employee engagement and experiences. But it’s also looking at flexible work hours, fitness benefits and volunteering opportunities, along with the technology used to stay connected.

As businesses increasingly look to grow and attract talent outside of the markets where they have offices, they typically follow one of two models: distributed work or remote work. But both fall short in truly setting a global workforce up for success and typically lack a technology strategy that enables employees, no matter where they are working from, to feel engaged and satisfied. Here’s how we think about distributed work and remote work, and why we believe Dynamic Work is truly the future.

Distributed Work

Many organizations with offices and employees spread out throughout the world define their workforces as distributed. Distributed work is purposeful: companies are prepared to support their employees, working from wherever they are most comfortable and productive, with regional office spaces that provide local support, and with the technology and infrastructure that enables them to be successful. This includes implementing best-of-breed cloud tools such as Zoom, Slack, and Box so they can securely collaborate with their employees around the world.

With distributed work, communication and culture are moved outside the boundaries of a physical location so that everyone is included and engaged, regardless of where they live.

Remote Work

Often, the terms remote work and distributed work are used interchangeably. However, at Okta, we believe remote work and distributed work differ noticeably. Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment—they could be traveling, working from a coffee shop, or maybe they live in a region without an office or official presence.

Today, we’ve found ourselves in a period of unplanned remote work: companies weren’t set up to support employees with technology and infrastructure at scale. Until now, remote work was usually done ad hoc, or handled on a case-by-case basis to ensure remote workers had what they needed to connect to those in the office.

Dynamic Work

Dynamic Work is a new way of thinking about an agile and flexible global workforce. It’s a framework our team created that enables us to hire talent, regardless of location, making office spaces needs-based rather than required. Dynamic Work not only provides employees with the flexibility to work from anywhere—whether that’s in a regional office space or at home—but provides employees with comparable benefits, flexible schedules, and work environments and experiences, regardless of their location. Like distributed work, it supports employees with the necessary technology and infrastructure, but also provides options for healthcare, fitness, volunteer opportunities, and more so that employees can choose the package that works best for them and their families, wherever they are.

Dynamic Work also rethinks the traditional workplace, shifting away from the traditional model with workstations and conference rooms in traditional office spaces, and it empowers employees to be their most productive and successful selves from anywhere, whether it’s in the office or from home. It’s centered around the premise that creating flexibility and enabling employees to work and live where it makes the most sense for them drives enablement, satisfaction, and productivity, and enables organizations to hire talent from a much broader and diverse pool.

Why the Future of Work is Dynamic

We’ve been transitioning to Dynamic Work for over a year, and the framework was born out of a number of macroeconomic, generational, and technology trends.

  • Migration from expensive cities: Housing costs continue to rise in cities around the world as they become denser in population, but salaries are not growing at the same rates. Because of this, people are moving further away from urban office locations, spending hours commuting each week so they can afford to live near the company they work for. By breaking the norm of hiring talent where office locations are, you can hire talent anywhere while enabling them to reside in markets they desire.
  • Generational trends changing the workplace: By 2025, Millennials are forecast to comprise 75% of the global workforce and they increasingly want the freedom and flexibility to do great work in a way that has meaningful impact, and believe they can do this from wherever. At the same time, Gen Z are technologically native, and expect technology to work for and support them at all times, from wherever they are.
  • Every company is becoming a technology company: As organizations digitally transform to remain competitive and provide the experiences their employees and customers expect, they are implementing and building technology to enable them to do so. This advancement of technology provides organizations with more flexibility to meet their employee needs and enable them to be successful from anywhere in the world.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic accelerates all of these trends: COVID-19 is both reinforcing and accelerating Dynamic Work, forcing us to run the world’s largest WFH experiment and providing us with insights about what works and what doesn’t. We recently conducted an internal survey and found that more than 80% of Okta employees want to incorporate the flexibility they’ve experienced during the work-from-home mandate into their future work schedule.

The New Experiential Workplace

Right now, everyone's predicting the offices we return to will be apocalyptical. The New York Times painted the future workplace as one that minimizes human connection by discouraging handshakes, reinstituting cubicles and mimicking a sterile, hospital-like environment. While these solutions will be beneficial in the near term, they are not sustainable, or desired by employees, in the long term. If we embrace Dynamic Work and the flexibility that comes with it, we can paint a much more positive picture for the future with office spaces that are more experiential in nature.

Similar to how retail stores have become places to go to try out products, interact with employees, and get a feel for the company’s culture, offices will soon function in a similar way. We envision them like Apple Stores: a larger number of smaller spaces in various locations around the world where you can experience our brand and product, while also providing seating for when employees need to come to the “office.” The spaces will provide customers, partners, and employees with a place to connect and work from when wanted, while not requiring a regular in-office schedule.

Although we could have never predicted the global pandemic and its impact on businesses, we’re ready to be flexible and agile in this new world, accommodating future generations and trends. We believe that Dynamic Work is the future for Okta, and hope other organizations can benefit from our experience and framework. For additional details on the framework, refer to our Ultimate Guide to Dynamic Work whitepaper.