A year in to the Covid-19 global pandemic, and in many countries there are still huge swathes of industries working from home – music included. Both there and in countries where control measures have enabled more of a ‘normal’ life to resume, though, thoughts are turning to the longer term changes to working patterns that the pandemic may spark.
Spotify went public with its thoughts on Friday, with a blog post claiming that “distributed-first is the future of work at Spotify… a workplace that isn’t built on the premise that employees need to gather in an office with traditional desk setups”. To that end, Spotify staff will now be able to “elect a Work Mode — whether they’d prefer to work mostly at home or in the office — as well as their geographic location”.
There’s a bit more detail on Spotify’s HR blog, including the awareness that “there are likely to be some adjustments to make along the way”. One adjustment might be figuring out what to do with all that office space – huge and intensely/expensively customised buildings in New York, London and other cities – that may never be full of staff again.
Spotify is far from the only company in our industry trying to figure out what the future of working looks like, based on the positive lessons (and the challenges) from the last year of enforced remote working. En masse, we’re transitioning from a ‘when we get back to the office…’ mentality to planning for a white-collar working world where the office (usually) still exists, but not as the full-time, everyone-together environment it used to be.
In our sector, what Spotify and its fellow tech companies do – Apple, Amazon, Google etc – will inevitably influence the plans of music companies of all sizes, competition for talented employees being what it is. But that’s the other important factor here. To break out the portentous capitalisation: How We Work In The Future is going to be defined not by the big tech companies, but by our new priorities and expectations as workers. A powerful moment for change, albeit with many unintended consequences lying in wait.