My job as an analyst requires that I be on the lookout for new things. The trick to finding new things might surprise you. The most inventive new things will usually be found by watching how old things intersect in new ways. Working from home is an old idea. One of my Ph.D. mentors at Syracuse University, Dr. Rolf Wigand, conducted research into the borderless enterprise stretching back into the 1980s. He and his colleagues studied the foundations of our present work-from-home response to COVID-19 — telework, computer-mediated communication — long before most of us had email addresses or were even alive in some of your cases. What’s new about working from home is that the interaction between remote work and everything else — the pandemic, pervasive connectivity, cheap cameras, a tech-literate workforce — has made this old idea compellingly and urgently new.

That makes this the right time to change the way we work, and it’s not just about remote work. There is a bigger context in which remote work is changing. All we need are the right tools to make this broader change successful. That’s where more ideas of the past come in. In fact, there are four ideas — none of them new per se but newly urgent and appropriate to the moment at hand — that will enable you to make the future of work real.

I’m pleased to announce the debut of Forrester’s newest future-of-work research. The Executive’s Guide To The Future Of Work (newly available for clients as well as nonclients) is exactly what it sounds like: an executive-level summary of what is happening to the what, where, and who of how work gets done. When we planned this guide and began the research and writing process back in January, we imagined that we’d have two years to help prepare executives for the future that was about to dawn upon them. Then the pandemic hit, and we found that everything we were saying was suddenly more urgently true than we expected.

The ideas we need to apply at this moment to step into that future are also not new. In our research, we describe the four tools that companies will need to develop and depend on not only to survive the long-term effects of the pandemic but to thrive in the future of work that comes out on the other side. These four tools — employee experience (EX), human capital management (HCM), automation and robotics readiness (measured by the robotics quotient, or RQ), and human-centric leadership — were already on executives’ radars; they just weren’t flashing red priorities before now. Our promise is that if you apply these ideas and combine them in the right way at this right time, you will be surprised at how novel the resulting future will be.

Read the guide to learn more about those four tools, as well as the four shocks that make the tools so critical at this moment in time and into the future. We will be developing our research in these four tools throughout 2020, collaborating with our colleagues in the rest of the world and those focused on specific industries to analyze how these things will differ in their expression — how they will intersect with other trends specific to individual geographies and verticals. Let us know what questions we can help you answer along the way.