The Modern Work Crisis
If you're an average business professional in 2023, statistically your work life looks like this:
You wake up early for a Zoom meeting because half your team lives several time zones away. In between back-to-back calls, you try to squeeze a few minutes for eating, doing chores, even going to the bathroom. You're constantly distracted by a never-ending stream of Slack and email notifications.
Your priorities are interrupted by fire drills and digital distractions. At night, once the day's flow of chaos subsides, you're forced to choose between doing actual work and spending time with your family, friends, or hobbies.
You're working more, but not more efficiently. You end the week exhausted, and not sure what you actually got done. You're on the verge of burnout—or fully there.
This isn't sustainable, or normal. But it is new.
Remote was an asteroid that changed work life forever.
Before COVID-19, the way we worked hadn't changed much in 70 years.
"Office work" was originally modeled on the way pre-WWII factories produced goods.
Despite the transition to white collar knowledge work, managers still managed professionals as though they were on an assembly line:
In-person: everyone worked in the same place at the same time.
Real-time: major discussions, decisions, and reporting happened live in meetings, with few records afterward of how or why things happened.
Minimal transparency: important information was hard for employees to access.
A focus on tracking inputs: managers measured effectiveness in hours worked, meetings attended, and messages sent.
Nobody loved this system, but workers also weren't quitting en masse. Until 2020.
Before COVID only 23% of professionals worked remotely. Today, 59% are working remotely most or all of the time. During the peak of the pandemic, it was an even higher 71%.
Graph of the percentage of Americans working fully remoteSource: Gusto Remote Work Transformation Report, April 2023
Remote work is a more optimized context for living your life and building your career:
You can work wherever you'd like, enabling you to move closer to family, areas more aligned with your interests, more affordable regions—or become nomads.
You can work whenever you'd like, enabling flexible schedules to accommodate better caregiving, hobbies, or work/sleep/life preferences.
You can choose from a wider variety of employers offering better experiences, salaries, or benefits than your local market could provide on its own.
Remote work made the labor market grow globally overnight, creating value and efficiencies for both sides.
Like previous waves of economic and technological disruption, remote work is an unstoppable force. It can't be turned back, as the failed RTO push showed. It can't be negotiated with either, as the failed hybrid model has illustrated.
We must adapt to it. And so far, most teams haven't.
Remote has changed work, but we have yet to collectively change how we work with it.
The resulting tension has created a low-level crisis at work for millions of people with three three major fault lines:
1. Meeting and message overload:
On a typical weekday professionals spend 28% of their time in meetings, 33% responding to email and messages, and 34% looking for files and documents. This leaves only 5% of their time for doing actual work.
This explains why 24% "always" or "usually" have to work during the weekend instead of spending time with family, friends, or hobbies.
And why 58% feel overwhelmed at work at least once a week.
Graph of daily reported time spent working
2. Disorganized, chaotic collaboration:
Professionals today need 14 separate apps to do their jobs.
35% receive more than 100 work-related messages every day.
And 71% report being interrupted at work by an urgent request from a colleague or manager at least once a week.
Graph of "how many times per day are you interrupted at work?"
3. A lack of connection and trust:
54% of hybrid managers report having less visibility into their employees' work
49% of hybrid managers struggle to trust their workers to perform at a high level.
This lack of trust manifests in intrusive management. 41% of employees feel micromanaged by their manager at least once a week.
Graph of how often people feel micromanaged by their manager
This crisis has already affected people, teams, and sectors, with no sign of things getting better.
1. For professionals:
It's led to decreased commitment. Only 21% of employees are engaged at work. 43% of office workers feel burned out. And 44% are experiencing significant levels of stress throughout the work day.
2. For teams:
It's led to inefficiency. Productivity declined in 2022 for the first time in history. On most teams, the majority of real work is done by <5% of the employees.
3. For society:
It's led to a slowdown of innovation. The average company's productivity now grows only half as fast as it did in the 1990s.
The way out of this crisis is simple: change how we work.
The Modern Work Method was created from interviews with 5,000 professionals about how they've successfully adapted to our "new normal" to produce results faster than ever.
We've synthesized their insights into a tactical playbook that shows you how to work across the fundamentals of collaboration:
Every team must choose: burn out, slow down, and calcify by sticking with office work, or move faster with modern work's structure, transparency, and fewer meetings.
If you choose the latter, keep reading.
Next: Modern Work Principles