Designing the future of work part 2: Open by default

by Catherine Flynn

At Workplace, we believe that people, not just technology, will define the future of work. Which is why we put the needs and expectations of people, especially young people, at the heart of everything we do.

When it comes to meeting these expectations, there are six principles that we believe will be at the heart of all successful workplaces in the future. These aren't short-term bets on technology or platforms; they're fundamental behaviours that guide our product philosophy and will need to be baked into all businesses if they're to develop the speed and resilience they'll need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

Open by default

The first principle that we've identified is 'open by default'.

Young people have grown up in a world where they've shared more of their lives and themselves than previous generations could have imagined. And they see instant access as a right – that might mean access to things such as media and games but it also means access to information and each other.

Not only does being open by default help to break down organisational silos and boundaries, giving people quicker access to the information that they need, it also helps us feel more connected to the mission and our colleagues.

Open = good

We believe in this passionately at Facebook because we've seen the results firsthand. Back in 2010, Facebook was much like any other company in that we ran on email, IRC and distribution lists.

"Almost overnight, Facebook moved from the closed culture of email threads to a radically open culture of transparency"

And like everybody else, we thought that this was pretty great. Nothing seemed to be broken, so nobody thought to fix it. Then something really significant happened. In 2011, one enterprising engineer had the bright idea of creating Facebook groups that were only accessible to other people inside the company.

This was a totally new idea – and it changed everything for us.

Almost overnight, Facebook moved from the closed culture of email threads and one-to-one conversations to a radically open culture of transparency

Closed = bad

Consider the difference between a senior manager who previously used an email memo to communicate to their team. Who in their right mind would hit 'Reply all' to that note? No one. It would probably be career suicide. What message does that send to employees? It says, 'Do not reply'. Do not share your ideas. Do not share your voice.

That same memo posted to a group on Facebook – and now on Workplace – has a little box below it. That box says, 'Write a comment'. Or, even easier, it has a Like button: the most simple and universal method of engagement we've ever known. It invites you by default to be heard, to share and to have a voice. Here are two examples to illustrate the point.

1: Having better conversations in charities

Save the Children has 25,000 global employees spread across many remote parts of the world. This has made connectivity an ongoing challenge. Existing tools – primarily email – also made it almost impossible to include everyone in the conversation.

In one instance, a communications manager was spending one day a week compiling an email for a 500-person distribution list. When Workplace launched, he replaced the email with a post to a global Workplace group. An interesting thing happened. Within a week, the Workplace group had twice the amount of people on the original distribution list.

He realised that, for five years, he'd restricted knowledge and insight to just 500 people. Those who didn't know how to 'get on the list' had no way of being part of the conversation. But now using Workplace, closed communication becomes open.

As Kyle Degraw, Humanitarian Communications Manager at Save the Children says:

"Using a platform like Workplace has enabled me to connect with colleagues around the world in the most efficient way possible. As a result, I spend less time checking emails and more time helping children."

2: Disconnecting email in telecoms

World-leading telecommunications operator Telenor knows firsthand how powerful it can be to remove the barriers that email can create. In one example, a data scientist used an internal Workplace group to share some research. Within hours, senior leaders had seen the update and the Comms team stepped in. The very next day, the Telenor research was on the front page of Norway's leading newspaper and website.

A quick outcome that wouldn't have been possible using traditional email. As Anne Flagstad, Senior Vice President, Culture and Change Management at Telenor says:

"In the past, critical information was often stuck in inboxes. By unlocking information through Workplace groups, our teams are more collaborative and spend more time problem-solving at a group level."

Using Facebook to build Facebook

So Facebook started using Facebook to build Facebook. The result was an incredible change in the speed at which the company moved. We were able to make smarter, faster decisions. Teams could collaborate more easily. Senior management could communicate more transparently. And even as the company grew to 1,000 then 10,000 and soon 40,000 employees, that open-by-default nature has continued to allow us to think and act with the speed of a much smaller company.

That speed is part of the fabric of Workplace. Thanks to our open culture, we've been able to bring the pace of innovation from consumer tech into other sectors. It's also enabling us to continue our mission to give the world a place to work together.

Read part 3 of our 'Designing the future of work' series here, about Mobile First. In the meantime, part 1 of the series is right here.

Give us 30 minutes. We'll give you Workplace. Join one of our webinars and try Workplace for free.

Let's stay connected

Stay updated with Workplace by signing up for our newsletter and receive tons of great content.

Follow us

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is using Workplace integrations to transform how people work

Play Video

Keep reading