Interaction With Barbara Matthews, Chief People Officer, Remote on the future of work in 2024
Barbara has 20 years of Global HR experience from scaling start-ups to fully ramped organizations with full-cycle People infrastructure and teams. She is passionate about working in a fast-paced industry, supporting scale across multiple regions, coaching and enabling our leaders to drive impact in the industry and within their teams and truly partnering with the business to drive it forward.
With experience across the People spectrum in Retail, Tech, MNC, and FinTech industries. She is currently heading up the People team supporting all Stripes across EMEA, APAC, and Latin America.
Q1. Currently, most companies are opting for Hybrid Work Model, and asking employees to return to offices, the focus is shifting to more in-person work, how do you see this trend?
We have noticed that hybrid work remains a popular approach in many countries. In many cases, the business model simply does not allow work to be moved to a flexible location. In other cases, some teams may be able to work fully remote while other teams in the company cannot, so a hybrid model is chosen as a “middle ground.” Or the employer and employees simply do not want to give up the routine of regular on-site contact.
A hybrid model can be beneficial but in reality, it often becomes the worst of both worlds. Information and culture can easily become siloed in the office, meaning those who work primarily from home can easily become left out, out of the loop, and overlooked. Meanwhile, office workers lose out on the flexibility that remote workers enjoy.
If any of the employees chose remote work over spending time in the office, then it’s essential to think “remote first.” That means treating remote work as the default rather than the exception and equipping everyone to do their best work, whether it is in the office or not. It’s a critical shift in mindset that will equally benefit everyone and ensure the entire team can do sustainable, balanced, productive work.
Q2. How do you see the importance of remote work to address gender equality in the workplace in comparison to the physical workplace?
Remote work can play a significant role in addressing gender equality in the workplace, but its impact is complex and multifaceted. Embracing remote work is one of the most effective strategies for companies to build more diverse teams, particularly when it comes to increasing participation by women in the workforce.
Here are some ways in which remote work can contribute to gender equality when compared to the traditional physical workplace:
- First, it means that companies are no longer limited to hiring from their immediate surrounding area. This geographic flexibility significantly broadens the talent pool and provides women, who might be constrained by their location or ability to commute, with increased opportunities to access meaningful employment.
- Second, remote work also enables significantly more flexibility in working hours, which is highly important for women, particularly mothers, in the workplace.
- Thirdly, remote work eliminates the need for commuting, which can be particularly advantageous for women who often bear a disproportionate burden of household responsibilities. This saved time can be allocated to work or personal development, potentially narrowing the productivity gap.
- Finally, remote work can help break down barriers associated with physical office environments that may be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. This promotes a more inclusive workforce, benefiting women with disabilities in particular.
In conclusion, remote work can be a valuable tool for addressing gender equality in the workplace, but its effectiveness depends on various factors, including how it is implemented and the specific context of each organization. To maximize its potential benefits, employers should consider a holistic approach that combines remote work with policies and initiatives aimed at promoting diversity, inclusion, and gender equality.
Q3. How does remote work improve employee flexibility, in particular for working mothers and parents?
Remote work allows employees to create more flexible schedules tailored to their needs. For working mothers and parents, this means they can adjust their work hours around their children’s school schedules, extracurricular activities, and other family commitments.
Remote work allows employees to have more control over their schedules and eliminates the need for a daily commute. These two things are incredibly valuable for all working parents who are in a constant struggle to balance their professional responsibilities with family commitments and obligations. Since mothers are the primary caretakers of children in most families, it is one cause of gender imbalance in the workplace.
Remote work means that working mothers and parents no longer have to choose between family and career. Instead, they have control to structure their workday in a way that aligns with family needs, fostering a healthier work-life balance. Remote work can reduce the need for full-time childcare services, which can be a significant financial burden for parents. With remote work, parents can supervise their children while working, especially if their children are of an age where they can manage some activities independently.
Q4. How does remote work encourage a larger pool of talent for employers and the next generation of leaders?
Remote work has become more crucial than ever after the pandemic. The pandemic caused a major shift towards remote work and showed that it is here to stay. The fact that more businesses are adopting this approach as a long-term answer to their workforce demands is evidence that companies have used the pandemic as an opportunity to reconsider their methods of operation and change over to a more flexible, agile, and resilient manner of operating.
When companies work remotely, they are no longer limited to candidates who are able to commute to the office every day. This means they can tap into a substantially larger pool of talent to find the right person. It also means companies can build more diverse teams. This includes geographic diversity, gender, and ethnic diversity, as well as making roles more accessible for those with disabilities, those with caretaking responsibilities, or those who need flexibility for countless other reasons.
Remote flexibility is highly desired by many candidates today. Adopting remote work is one of the most powerful ways to make your company attractive to today’s top talent, and to make it an attractive place for them to stay long-term.
This is particularly true for the next generation – Gen Z jobseekers have very different expectations of their employers than previous generations – strongly preferring flexibility and placing higher value on work/life balance.
Q5. What do you anticipate is the future of work in 2024?
The Indian labour market is poised for significant upheaval as we turn the page to a new year. The opportunities, innovations, and problems that 2024 is expected to bring about will reshape India’s professional scene. The important trends and insights that job seekers, professionals, and businesses may look forward are as follows:
Tech-Powered Revolution Continues: There are no signs that the pace of industries’ technological revolution would slow down. Businesses will continue to be redefined by technologies like augmented reality, blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Candidates with a passion for technology and the capacity to shift quickly will be in high demand across industries.
Mature Hybrid Work/Remote Models: The pandemic-driven rise in popularity of mixed work style will continue in 2024. Companies are expected to improve how they handle both in-person and remote work, creating a balance that promotes teamwork and upholds employee well-being. Candidates seeking jobs need to be equipped to handle these changing workplace dynamics while demonstrating their adaptability and communication abilities.
The outlook for remote work remains positive, as companies increasingly recognize the operational and cost efficiencies that distributed remote work can offer. While the long-term trend is toward greater work flexibility, in 2024 we should not expect one single dominant type of work to emerge. We will continue to see companies try out various hybrid and in-office arrangements, as they try to find the right balance between remote and in-person.
Q6. Any concluding remarks?
What I think we can expect is that the competitive advantages of remote work will become increasingly clear. Companies that fully embrace remote work, invest in the necessary infrastructure, and prioritize the well-being of their remote workforce are likely to emerge as more adaptable, resilient, and stronger players in the global economy.
And those who are unable to accommodate flexible work will lose talent and competitive advantages, and eventually fall behind. The employment landscape in India offers a rich tapestry of opportunity, growth, and innovation. Forging effective career paths will depend on embracing technology, prioritizing skill development, and fostering a commitment to sustainability.
The new year should be approached by job seekers, professionals, and enterprises with an open mind, a readiness to learn, and a resolve to make a significant contribution. As we set out on this adventure together, let’s be resilient, passionate, and driven by a desire for a better future.
In APAC, it has always been part of the culture to drive ‘Facetime’ between employers and employees. What we are seeing is that the employees want flexibility and ownership of their ‘me’ time. This can be achieved by offering remote working environments. A key talent retention initiative that companies in APAC need to take is not to adhere to traditional Facetime practices in an office, but instead to give your employees the freedom to choose where they work and how they work.
Thank you, Barbara!