In 1988, when we first moved to SE Asia and I began working, I had my office at home. Some of my friends in the States were working at home and it seemed like a cost-effective, family friendly way to work. However, local clients did not take me seriously and eventually neither did the government. I was invited to leave. No one understood why a successful businessperson would work out of their home. It just couldn’t be done.

I revisited that city not long ago only to meet a half-dozen or so locals, now working from home. How times change. This got me thinking about the future, upcoming changes, and how we need to take advantage of trends in the West to move our B4T businesses forward. When thinking about the next decade, it is clear the ways people work will change drastically. And in considering the changes, there are a variety of factors to consider. Each person’s experience, giftings and area of work will impact what areas of work and the things they prioritize. Being aware of these differences, my gut tells me that there are two primary components of work that we need to adapt to, as to be innovative and get a jump on both the culture and our competitors.

1) Flexibility.

a. Location

Employee flexibility should be centered around the place and time of a worker’s job. A growing number of workers want options concerning where they work. Whether that be at home, in a coffee shop, or while traveling; flexibility in choosing the location of where people work will become more commonplace. Bosses also want employees to work in locations that enhance the employee’s quality of work and productivity. If an employee gets more creative ideas when working at the beach, then why not?

b. Time

In addition, workers also will desire greater control over their time. For some employees, that may mean working 40 hours in an open, collaborative office space, while other employees might prefer a flexible schedule that allows them to work from home or out of doors in a park. Night people are more productive at night, just as morning people tend to produce more before noontime.

Building adaptable work schedules adds joy, energy and creativity to people’s work. Providing our workers with such privileges is a blessing for both the employees and the business. It will take some planning, testing, and trial and error experiments, but win/win situations can be found and implemented. Yet understand, the business leaders must initiate and enable these ideas to work. Visionary leaders empower their workers with the elasticity to work where, when, and in ways needed so as to best meet the objectives of business while enhancing and motivating the employees. You may need greater communication systems too, and managers will need loosen their reigns so as to manage in a fluid manner. Yet the increased output from valuing and empowering people should be worth the effort.

2) Freedom.

In the past, workers were given specific projects to accomplish under the watchful eyes of their manager. Specific and frequent supervision was the norm. Future employees will not stand for a strict hierarchal chain of command. Transparency, authenticity, relational leadership is desired. With less one-on-one guidance from managers, be careful to hire employees who are self-motivated and able get things done while working autonomously.

As we move forward, these two concepts will grow in their importance to employees. Consider how your business is integrating these ideas—are you ready for the coming decade and all it entails?



PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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