The ways we work today are drastically different than just a few years ago. One of the pandemic’s biggest impacts on society is in the way work is done. In the aftermath, companies have taken different paths to regain some control of their employees' workflows.
Return-to-office initiatives, the bounce-back of events and business travel, and new technology mean what work looks, feels, and sounds like in the future may begin to take shape in 2024.
Office Space and Remote Work
Flexible and hybrid work options are here to stay. However, as many of those who work in remote environments can attest, there is only so much communication, collaboration, culture development, and team-building that can occur virtually.
To close out the year, Resume Builder surveyed 1,000 business decision-makers on the future of their work environments. According to the results, 90% of workers will return to the office regularly in some capacity in 2024. A majority of businesses track employee attendance in the office, and just over a quarter (28%) of leaders said they’d fire employees who don’t comply with office attendance requirements.
For CFOs, this hard-nosed tactic to drive people back into the office may be difficult. Many teams are spread out globally, and good talent within corporate finance is hard to come by. While finance teams benefit from in-person collaboration, it doesn’t appear CFOs are as eager as other executives to push their teams to come back to the office.
“The future of the workplace and remote working continues to evolve,” said Kanuj Malhotra, CFO and COO of Trusted Media Brands, the ownership group of numerous publications, including Reader’s Digest. “Our facilities strategy is focused on how best to promote engagement and collaboration. Our employee base is stretched between Los Angeles, New York, Milwaukee, and India. So collaboration requires global coordination.”
“One very effective tactic for us has been to gather cross-functional and geographically dispersed teams quarterly in many cases to promote ideation and innovation,” Malhotra said. “We work backward from seeing how our facilities support the same. Clearly, where we do not need excess space to do so we look to optimize those costs over time if that makes sense potentially.”
Other CFOs, many of whom have been in remote environments far before the pandemic by choice, are focused on what works best for them and their teams and not on providing a blanket policy for the company.
“I have worked extensively both remote and in-office settings, and they both have strengths and weaknesses... I feel that it is important to support [hybrid] work style and provide the proper tools to enable effective collaboration."
“I have been working in a remote setting for nearly eight years now, and my teams have always been fairly distributed around the U.S.,” said Craig Gomulka, CFO of Komprise, a business data management platform. Less than a month into his role, Gomulka has no plans to enforce in-person standards. Instead, he is focused on what gets the best work out of each individual.
“I have worked extensively both remote and in-office settings, and they both have strengths and weaknesses. However, given the goal of many existing and prospective employees to work in a hybrid environment, I feel that it is important to support that work style and provide the proper tools to enable effective collaboration,” he said.
“We may also see new tech that will help facilitate remote collaboration further, as increased acceptance of remote work will likely drive further enhancements in collaboration tools, supporting virtual teamwork and connectivity,” said Gomulka.
Communication and AI
Difficulties can arise when leaders try to communicate in virtual settings. CFOs at recent events had extensive discussions about how to address message tone in a virtual setting, and how to relay a message and control the perception of that message without body language.
As virtual work environments will last, major adjustments to the way communication is done may not be necessary.
“My communication style has remained fairly consistent over the past eight years,” said Gomulka. “When I worked in an office setting before that, there were certainly more impromptu meetings and get-togethers with my team that did increase levels of communication; however, I would not say that my team and I back then were any different from an operational efficiency level a we are today. We just leveraged different modes of communication.”
Malhotra has paired this approach with a learning element, to drive employee engagement while also preparing them for technology’s impact on business plans. “We try to empower and support our employees in the deepest and most meaningful ways. We recently had broad-based sessions on how best to leverage AI, for example. We have a strong focus on data and analytics and [to] be able to leverage and integrate AI tools in our decision making [in the future].”
According to Gomulka, AI 's biggest test this year is to see if it can branch out and continue to drive innovation and disruption in sectors it has yet to impact.
“Artificial intelligence will make significant traction in organizations in 2024 and will continue to reshape work processes for many departments and fields, in particular engineering, marketing, and finance,” he said. “However, [I predict] we will see AI impact all fields, departments, and organizations.”
In today’s hybrid environments, productivity measurement can be difficult. Business leaders have instituted elements such as tracking office attendance, employee computer activity, even using AI to watch employees through security camera systems. But there are no definitive processes and benchmarks.
“I typically use metrics that capture financial accuracy, evaluating error rates in reports and statements, and efficiency,” said Gomulka. “For financial accuracy, I can track the occurrence of errors. For efficiency, I measure the time it takes to complete the financial reporting cycle.
“I typically use metrics that capture financial accuracy, evaluating error rates in reports and statements, and efficiency."
“I also assess the speed at which the finance team processes payments and collects receivables,” he said. “Budget and forecast accuracy is reasonably easy to assess by comparing actual results with budgeted or forecast figures. Lastly, we monitor the number and severity of audit findings to assess compliance with financial regulations and internal policies.”
Communication about compensation, an issue affecting employee productivity and job satisfaction, is expected to increase in 2024, as more states require companies to disclose pay information in job ads.
“Our view is always that the most talented employees have options, [and] compensation is obviously one important aspect of employee satisfaction. But it has to be scored alongside many other factors,” said Malhotra.
“As a regular and recurring matter, we benchmark our compensation to monitor how we can best reward our employees,” he said. “Our critical and most valued asset is truly our employee base. We have a global base of operations, and these efforts occur globally and regularly.”