The workplace is going through the largest and fastest transformation ever. The remote work revolution is not “just” about the place where we work. It’s about how we work.
This is the real problem — we simply suck in how the work is organized and done. Most companies are far from being “role models.” I’ve seen it firsthand when advising Fortune 500 companies or hyper-growth tech startups. Work complexity is rising, and businesses need to commit to the ongoing support of this shift. Unstructured work falls between the cracks, and we end up with an unclear overview of what’s going on. So why does that happen?
- Too much (or not enough) information? According to a recent Wrike report, the average knowledge worker sends and receives 295 work-related messages each day and uses up to 19 different apps. It seems like employees should have all the necessary information, right? Nope… An astonishing 61% of knowledge workers feel stressed because they don’t have all the information they need to do their jobs.
- Complex tasks, not enough guidance. Leaders don’t provide enough guidance on how the work should be done, which negatively impacts the well-being of employees. 65% of knowledge workers feel stressed at work because the tasks they have to perform are growing more complex.
- A single source of truth is still not there. Organizations have a hard time with proper knowledge management and creating a single source of truth. 53% of information isn’t immediately accessible to knowledge workers when they need it.
- This meeting could’ve been an email. There are too many meetings and a lack of skills in their proper facilitation — the majority of businesses still struggle with doing this right. 78% of people agreed that too many of the meetings they attend could be easily replaced with an email.
- Work-life balance challenges. It’s still hard for employees to implement clear boundaries when they are offline/online because their organizations are not supportive of creating these boundaries. 60% of knowledge workers are stressed because their job is eating into their personal life.
With all of this in mind, there is a common denominator that hurts each of these aspects. Wrike coined an interesting term for that — “Dark Matter of Work.”
Dark Matter represents activity and information that we can’t immediately see — it exists in texts, apps, video calls, spreadsheets, and conversations. Even if we can’t see this Dark Matter, we can still see its influence. It lives in synchronous applications and unstructured work, such as instant message threads, video calls, break room conversations, emails, and phone calls.
The Dark Matter of Work is an extremely complex topic, especially in the remote or hybrid work scenario. For most businesses, it will take months and sometimes even years to get rid of the legacy of how they used to work. There will be blood and tears, but a better world is waiting for us on the other side.
What’s holding us back
So before we dive into potential solutions to these problems, let’s understand why this is actually happening when there are billions of dollars spent on various up-skilling programs and change management projects that should address these issues. Why is it so hard to make work, work?
- Changing our habits is always a challenge. You know what I am talking about if you tried doing push-ups or started waking up early to go jogging. The same goes for the work environment. It takes time. And it requires an owner of this change who will support you when things are not going as planned. However, when over 90% of knowledge workers say that having better technology and processes in place will help reduce stress and increase recognition, it seems like change could be a good thing.
- Business pressure is not helping. There is always an important project to complete or revenue goal to hit, so long-term plans that would help us work smarter and more efficiently often get lower priority. It’s no wonder 57% of business leaders say that even when employees say they are overworked, they can’t figure out why. They’re pulled in too many directions.
- Leaders are bosses, not mentors. People in leadership positions should have all the necessary skills to enable smooth management of their teams and help team members grow. Unfortunately, 59% of business leaders say it is impossible to tell how their employees are progressing because so much of the relevant information around their work is in a black hole. This certainly doesn’t help leaders provide the guidance their teams need.
- Wrike’s work management software gives you 360° visibility across your organization. The Wrike platform allows teams to collate and monitor their resources and projects to assess progress and avoid potential risks to the business. By storing everything in one place, you can gain better performance insights.
- With more people now working remotely, effective collaboration tools are more important than ever. Wrike’s collaboration features, including commenting, live editors, and built-in approvals, allow teams to work as effectively from home as they would in the office. Store all your projects, input, and resources in one place, so your team can work better together, wherever they are.
- Wrike’s request forms help teams manage their work intake by ensuring tasks are assigned to the right person with all the information needed to complete the task successfully and on time. This allows teams to easily support one another, making sure that nothing slips through the cracks.
We are not going back to the old world
Most companies were forced into remote working overnight in March 2020, while pre-pandemic, organizations expected the move to remote working and collaboration to take 15 months. In 2020, the average time to move was 10.5 days. Knowing that 84% of business function leaders say the move to hybrid working is “irreversible”, business leaders need to create and execute a long-term plan that will embrace the new reality as something permanent. This is something that we all want — to have the freedom to choose where we work and know our work is about the outcome, not the hours we put in.
About Iwo Szapar
Iwo Szapar is the CEO of Remote-how, the world's leading marketplace for remote and hybrid work experts, and co-founder of the Remote-First Institute. Since 2017, he has advised 600+ companies (including Walmart, ING Bank, and Microsoft) on optimizing their distributed workforce. As a remote work expert, he co-created the Remote-how Academy, the world's first certification program for remote teams, and co-hosts the annual Remote Future Summit.
Iwo wrote the book "Remote Work Is The Way” and was featured in Forbes, BBC, and Business Insider. Over the last five years, Iwo has worked remotely while living in 15 different countries. Iwo is a dog lover, amateur surfer, and DJ. While not working, he reads history books and follows international affairs. In 2022, Iwo co-founded the Remote-First Institute, a not-for-profit organization on a mission to promote the remote-first approach.