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Dropbox founder Drew Houston says the 40-hour office week is a thing of the past and that the pandemic has changed work forever

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Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox.

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  • Dropbox’s cofounder said the 40-hour office week could be a thing of the past.
  • Drew Houston was one of 15 CEOs asked by CNN about how the pandemic could change the future of work.
  • Knowledge workers will be able to escape their commute and gain more control over their schedule, he said.

The 40-hour office work week could soon be dead, according to Dropbox’s cofounder Drew Houston. 

Knowledge workers will escape the “grueling commutes” of the past and have more control over how they schedule their day, he told CNN when asked about his predictions for the future of work.

He said the “enormous” impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the way we work will be comparable to the impact of mobile and cloud technology.

“I also see the 40-hour office workweek — an artifact of factory work — finally becoming a thing of the past,” Houston said.

“The workplace will now be wherever work happens, and the workweek will be whenever work happens best for each person,” he said.

More remote working means companies can hire “beyond exclusive urban clusters” and therefore attract more talent, he said.

Companies will need to ensure that they have both the right culture and good enough managers for workers to get things done without being constantly monitored, Houston added. 

During the pandemic, some people have said working from home gives them greater flexibility, improved work-life balance, and more autonomy. Some employers who were previously sceptical about the impact of remote work on productivity appear to have changed their minds.

Many companies are switching to hybrid working as a way of retaining staff who don’t want to return to the office five days a week

Labour market experts and economists, however, have warned that knowledge workers — such as computer programmers and accountants — are more likely to benefit, compared to those in manufacturing and hospitality roles, who can’t do their job at home. 

Houston said the future of work was still “largely to be determined,” and that companies and workers needed to rethink the social contract between employees and employer. 

Houston cofounded Dropbox in 2007. Earlier in September, he was one of 15 CEO’s — including  Citibank’s Jane Fraser and LinkedIn’s Ryan Roslansky — asked by CNN to share lessons they learned during the pandemic. 

Houston talked about Dropbox’s decision to become a “virtual first” company in October 2020, when it announced that all employees would work from home permanently.

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Managing people

How to have difficult conversations at work without being confrontational

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Having difficult conversations with coworkers can be challenging. There are ways to make the conversations effective

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  • Having difficult or sensitive conversations with coworkers can be stressful.
  • To keep the tone productive rather than confrontational, approach the meeting with trust and compassion. 
  • Prepare what you want to say, listen openly and with empathy, and ask questions to reach a compromise.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

All of us have been on the receiving end of a difficult conversation at work, and many have had to deliver a hard message to others. Unless you are totally inhuman, none of these are painless, and we all wish we had some way to make them more meaningful and more effective. We all want to feel good about our work and relationships, and we want others to feel the same way.

During my many years in business and as a consultant, I have struggled with this dilemma myself and tried to offer clients the insights they needed, but never had a good answer. Thus, I was pleased to see this topic addressed well in a new book, “Can We Talk? Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work” by Roberta Chinsky Mauson.

Mauson is a recognized thought leader on improving employee engagement and has consulted with many top-tier companies and achieved some great results. I agree with her principles for approaching any conversation at work, especially difficult ones, and making them positive and productive, rather than emotional and confrontational. Here are some highlights:

1. Build confidence by trusting yourself and the other party

Build your confidence first and present your side of the conversation in a way to keep the other person engaged and open enough to really hear your thoughts. You also need to take some time to build a trusting relationship with the other person before jumping in and speaking your mind.

The best way to build your own confidence is to solidify your purpose at work and focus on results around that purpose. It’s hard to be confident in what you’re doing if you’re not sure why you’re doing it. When you show confidence, people will trust and follow you.

2. Find clarity by making your point clearly and listening

If you want others to hear you loud and clear, be direct in your communication, choose your words carefully, and stick to the facts. Enter all discussions with an open mind, park your assumptions, and listen deeply. Remember that what someone else hears is dependent on their perspective, not yours.

Too often, the main objective for people who are about to enter a tricky conversation is to get it over as quickly as possible. With that as an objective, you won’t make your point clearly and you may not listen. Practice your message ahead of time and stick to it.

3. Demonstrate compassion by being empathetic and understanding

Empathy and compassion are the impressions you display of how well you understand or feel what the other person is experiencing. These include not only the words spoken but, more importantly, your nonverbal cues and body language. Usually it helps to slow down your speech rather than speed up.

4. Demonstrate curiosity by asking questions rather than shutting down

Being curious and asking questions to learn more about a particular situation shows the other party that you’re interested in what they have to say and helps to move the conversation forward. Be sure not to cross the fine line between coming across as curious versus sounding judgmental.

5. Find compromise and earn respect by respecting others

When seeking common ground, focus on the “why,” keep your eyes on the prize, be open to all alternatives, and be willing to make concessions. Try to make the outcome a “win-win” rather than a “win-lose” result. Always be respectful of alternate views and perspectives that do not match yours.

6. Show credibility, as your word is only as good as your actions

Credibility isn’t a trait you are born with. Rather, it’s something you earn day in and day out. It’s your behaviors that matter — not your intentions. Remember that people don’t work for companies, they work for people they trust. Improve your credibility by being consistent and owning your mistakes.

7. Display courage by navigating the obstacles despite fear

Courage is the determination to move forward despite the fear. The sooner you are able to deal with discomfort, the easier it will be for you to initiate a high-stakes conversation. Not taking action is never a solution, but not every conversation is worth having. In all cases, summon the courage to stand up for yourself.

As you can see, there’s a lot that needs to go into handling a challenging work situation when your goal is to have a productive discussion and you need to continue to maintain a relationship with the other person.

Since these principles often take time to have an impact, you need to start your thinking and focus now.

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Managing people

It's never been more clear: companies should give up on back to office and let us all work remotely, permanently

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  • With the rise of the Delta Variant, companies should switch to all remote.
  • All-remote is better for workplace collaboration, the environment, and companies' bottom lines.
  • Companies that switch to all-remote should be intentional about collaboration and technology.
  • Jeff Chow is SVP Product at InVision.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It's time to go back to the office for good – the home office.

With the CDC's recommendation that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with "substantial" and "high" transmission of COVID-19, employees across industries are wondering what the new future of work looks like. As the possibility of another shelter-in-place order looms, companies are deciding whether moving to a hybrid situation – simultaneously in-person and remote – is worth it.

It's not. Simply put, the concept of "forever remote" makes sense for numerous companies and industries. For many, America's "back to work" isn't a simple light switch, but many organizations are better off to shut the lights off at the traditional office. The switch to all remote will broaden a company's talent pool and increase employee happiness and retention, while limiting a lease and lowering its carbon footprint.

There are benefits to becoming a fully-remote organization. A top example is that the talent pool now goes national, or even international. Organizations are no longer limited to recruiting employees from a given radius to their offices. Asynchronous work helps to open the door for employees to work across time zones to get projects and deliverables completed in time.

InVision, where I work, has been all-remote since its inception. We have the luxury of hiring people living across the US and in 25 countries.

Additionally, without the need for a large physical office presence, companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, on leasing office space or building an expansive campus.

There is also evidence that eliminating an office for all employees to work remotely is better for the environment. Eliminating a daily commute, whether it's driving a vehicle or taking mass transit, helps cut down on emissions. This was initially noticed back in the spring and summer of 2020, when a decline in transportation due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 6.4% decrease in global carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of 2.3 billion tons. The United States had the largest drop in carbon emissions at 12%, followed by the entirety of the European Union at 11%.

In a June 2021 McKinsey survey of over 1,600 employed people, researchers found about one in three workers back in an office said returning to in-person work negatively impacted their mental health. Those surveyed also reported "COVID-19 safety and flexible work arrangements could help alleviate stress" of returning to the office. Not everyone who works for the same company is going to get along. In an all-remote environment, it is far easier for people who are at odds to simply avoid each other. HR won't have to spend nearly as much time mediating between (or terminating) office Hatfields and McCoys.

So, how exactly do you quickly pivot to remote again and stick with it? The key is intentionality. Teach managers to make a point of celebrating wins and good work on group calls. Build encouraging collaboration into managers' Key Performance Indicators (KPI)s. Take advantage of face-to-face opportunities by holding in-person, all-company all-hands meetings as a time to build culture, not a time to just do more work.

Treat working groups to dinner (use some of the money you saved on your lease!) and let them get to know each other as people. To be intentional, invest in new ways of working that are oftentimes better ways of working: reducing necessary meetings and adjusting more feedback sessions to asynchronous collaboration. Meetings that remain on calendars should be reserved for the purpose of being highly engaging and energizing moments for teams to brainstorm and do generative sessions.

Second is technology. By now, we're all familiar with the likes of Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, but there are other products that can actively improve collaboration (full disclosure: I work for InVision, which makes one such digital collaboration tool, namely Freehand).

Take a thorough look with your IT team (and talk to your employees) to see what they need on a day-to-day basis. What tools does your accounting team need? Do they differ from what the marketing team needs (spoiler alert: they do). And don't force everyone to use the same tools. If your accounting team loves Microsoft Excel, that's fine for them. I can guarantee, however, that your product design team is not going to use it.

Finally, invest in your employees' ability to make the transition (again).

GreenGen, which provides green energy solutions for businesses and infrastructure projects, had one of the most pioneering ideas. "We had our employees do a two-day work-from-home resiliency test. This was to ensure that everyone's home Wi-Fi was adequate so that all of our documents and materials were easily accessible online, and that we could troubleshoot any potential problems preemptively," said Bradford H. Dockser, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of GreenGen. "Ensuring that our team members got monitors, mice, and keyboards at home made the transition seamless." With that sort of intentional stress test, GreenGen didn't skip a beat.

Above all, the main key to returning to the home office for good lies within communication. Technology and innovative products have helped to bring colleagues closer together virtually, as people work from anywhere at any time. Initial shelter-in-place orders taught many businesses across industries that remote work can be just as effective, if not more so, than the traditional office model. Businesses should make the call to go all-remote permanently. Their employees, their investors, and the environment will all thank you.

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Business Ideas

Some Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores will become WeWork coworking spaces for $300 a month – see inside SaksWorks

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The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

  • Hudson's Bay Company has partnered with WeWork to create co-working spaces.
  • The SaksWorks will be built within existing or past Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores.
  • The coworking spaces will have amenities like gyms, cafes, and restaurants.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) – the mastermind behind Saks Fifth Avenue and formerly Lord and Taylor – has partnered with WeWork to create “SaksWorks.”

SaksWorks' armchairs and coffee tables
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

That’s right. Your local Saks Fifth Avenue could become the next hotspot for freelancers, startups, and remote workers.

SaksWorks' large coworking desk with a presentation screen and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

To tap into the ongoing coworking craze, HBC will be turning part of its real estate collection into WeWork-run SaksWorks.

SaksWorks' tall shelves with plants and books hiding desks
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

This includes both existing or past Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord and Taylor stores, Konrad Putzier reported for the Wall Street Journal.

SaksWorks' couch in front of a coffee table surrounded by bookshelves and plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Several SaksWorks will also be located outside of the city for suburbanites who need a break from working from home.

SaksWorks' couch in front of a coffee table surrounded by bookshelves and plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

All of the images shown below are from the partnership’s Brookfield Place location in New York City, but there will also be three additional New York locations – in Manhasset, Scarsdale, and Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship in the city – and one in Greenwich, Connecticut.

SaksWorks with a bookshelf in front of a couch, coffee table, and more shelving
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

The Brookfield Place location is replacing a former Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s store, while the SaksWorks in Saks Fifth Avenue is taking the place of a 10th floor children’s section.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

The three other SaksWorks will take the place of Lord and Taylor stores, Steff Yotka reported for Vogue.

a couch with colorful pillows and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source:  Vogue

The first few SaksWorks will open its doors in September, but looking ahead, the team has plans to open more locations across North America.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants, coffee table
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

In the future, this could include Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Boston, Amy Nelson, SaksWorks president, told the Wall Street Journal.

SaksWorks' coworking space with a long line of tables and chairs
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: Wall Street Journal

HBC’s reputation for luxury goods seeps into the SaksWorks spaces …

SaksWorks' armchair and couches and shelves
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

… which will include plush amenities like on-site gyms, retail and restaurant spaces, cafes, and in-house events.

SaksWorks' squat rack in front of a mirror
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Like any other WeWork, SaksWorks will also have the prerequisite meeting spaces and open concept coworking spots.

SaksWorks' large coworking desk with a presentation screen and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

As part of the collaboration, the SaksWorks locations will use WeWork’s “workplace management technology,” such as its booking app, according to a press release.

a couch with colorful pillows and shelves in the back
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

“With HBC, we take the first step toward expanding our technology platform product offering and providing a differentiated approach to how landlords can incorporate flexible space across their portfolio,” Sandeep Mathrani, WeWork’s CEO, said in the press release.

SaksWorks' coworking space with armchairs, bookshelves, plants, coffee table
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source: BusinessWire

Prices will start at $299 a month, and the waitlist is already a few hundred people deep.

SaksWorks' tall shelves with plants and books hiding desks
The SaksWorks inside Brookfield Place in New York City.

Source:  Vogue

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