Business_news The corporate office as we know it is dead. Long live the ‘dynamic’ workplace, says a CEO who’s been experimenting with this new concept for a year. (OKTA)


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  • A new buzzword has arisen in Silicon Valley for the concept of allowing employees to work from home indefinitely: “remote-first.”
  • Okta, a tech company with its headquarters in expensive San Francisco, has been experimenting with the concept for the better part of a year, even before the pandemic, CEO Todd McKinnon said.
  • He calls the concept “dynamic work” and says it isn’t just about allowing employees to work from home once or twice a week, or even indefinitely.
  • Companies will need to create an equal experience for remote employees in terms of benefits, access to fitness facilities, volunteering, and corporate culture, he said.
  • And he predicts that where the tech industry leads, all other companies will follow. “The workplace we all know is a thing of the past,” he said.
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Now thatTwitter,Facebook,Square, andShopifyhave all told their employees that they can work from home indefinitely, more tech companies are jumping on board. A new buzzword for the concept has already arisen in Silicon Valley: “remote-first.”

Okta, a tech company with its headquarters in expensive San Francisco, has been experimenting with the concept for the better part of a year, even before the pandemic, CEO Todd McKinnon said. When COVID-19 struck and all 2,248 of his worldwide employees were sent to work from home, his company then put its project into overdrive. He’s now convinced that the typical corporate office will soon be dead.

“The workplace we all know is a thing of the past,” McKinnon told business Insider.

But he doesn’t think that the idea of remote-first, in which companies ditch the corporate office altogether to become fully distributed work-from-home organizations, is the answer.

“The future of work isn’t going to be fully remote or distributed,” he said. “It is going to be dynamic.”

“Dynamic work” isn’t just about allowing employees to work from home all the time or a couple times a week, he said. It’s also providing employees with the same benefits office workers are accustomed to, like fitness centers, volunteer opportunities, and cultural experiences.

“We started our own dynamic-work pilot about 10 months ago with smaller teams and offices across the globe,” he said. “With the advent of COVID-19, we’ve been refining it and plan to roll it out globally as we begin to return to the office.”

Now that all of Okta’s employees have been working from home from months, with less commuting, more flexibility, and more family time, more than 80% of them want to keep doing so in some way, he said.

There are practical reasons that all companies need to think about now in regard to remote work. The modern open-plan corporate office has been designed to pack in as many employees as possible, with workers sitting in groups at adjoining desks. But with COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions, companies that eschewed 1980s-style cubicles are a bit stuck. They’ll have to limit how many employees can be in any given area, as well as in the building in general. It may be well into 2021 before such restrictions will be lifted.

By then, working from home will have become the new norm for many, which could prompt companies to rethink their pricey real-estate needs.

“Office spaces will significantly change and become more experiential in nature,” McKinnon said. “I envision our offices functioning like Apple Stores do today: a larger number of smaller spaces in various locations around the world where you can experience our brand and product.”

In that vision, customers, partners, and employees could come into an office for a meeting or an event, as well as to see demos or use expensive company-owned equipment.

Okta is an interesting case study because it makes one of the technologies that would make such a dynamic workplace happen. Its enterprise cloud products allow employees to log in to all the apps and resources they need for their jobs. If all employees are going to be scattered across the globe instead of logging in through a corporate network, companies will need such tech to ensure that the person at the computer is who they say they are, and not a hacker. It behooves Okta to adopt this new way of working in an eat-your-own-dog-food way.

That said, the company also grew from 1,561 employees at the start of 2019 to 2,248 employees at the start of 2020. Most employees worked at its 207,000-square-foot San Francisco headquarters, but some were scattered in offices across 12 countries. Before the pandemic, Okta’s real-estate team was working on finding more square footage in San Francisco in preparation for more growth. But McKinnon doesn’t think that the new trend away from real estate will affect only Bay Area companies or the tech industry.

“This new normal isn’t a temporary one, and it is influenced by macroeconomic trends that will be true long after this virus goes away: housing bubbles, rising costs of living, hiring challenges in urban-centered offices, etc.,” he said. “We expect many companies — particularly cloud-native companies that are already set up for remote work — to quickly follow suit. And eventually, every workplace will evolve.”


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