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The design challenge of hybrid work

June 21, 2021, 10:11 AM UTC

Good morning.

I know it’s become commonplace to say this, but sending everyone home from the office was so much easier than bringing everyone back. Then, there was a clear goal—the rules were imposed by the virus, and by health authorities. Now, there are no rules. Polls show the majority of knowledge workers want “hybrid,” and the majority of companies plan to give it to them. But figuring out what hybrid means remains a massive design challenge. (I certainly haven’t figured it out—I spent an entire day at the office last week doing nothing but nonstop Zoom calls.)

That’s why Fortune is fortunate this year to have teamed up with Salesforce and IBM to host Brainstorm Design. The main event will be an in-person gathering in Brooklyn on September 20-21. In the lead-up, we’ve been gathering top executives and thinkers virtually to explore how human-centered design can build a better world of work.

At last week’s meeting, SYPartners CEO Jessica Orkin nicely defined both the challenge and the opportunity. “2020 was a year of the future crashing into all of us,” she said. “Suddenly, from having a small handful of transformational CEOs, every leader had to become a transformational CEO.” One way or another, every leader also will have to become skilled in design, which Orkin said “is the method of envisioning the future, and then rearranging every element to make it a powerful reality.”

Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said at the center of that process is empathy—truly understanding both whom you are designing for, and who is doing the designing. At Hyatt, he says, the process “really begins with our colleagues, because if our colleagues are not cared for, then they can’t care for our guests.” Walker Brands CEO Tristan Walker underscored how far we are from an answer: “We are on page one of chapter one of book one of this journey.”

At Fortune, we plan to stay on top of the rapidly evolving thinking about the post-pandemic workplace. If you are interested, I’d suggest subscribing to CEO Daily’s sister newsletter, Worksheet, here, and also visit our Smarter Working hub here. If you want more information about Brainstorm Design, sign up here. And as always, I welcome your thoughts; just reply directly to this email.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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