Designing For a Future Without Borders

Education unbound

June 3, 2021

COVID has disrupted our personal and professional lives and accelerated global change. Emerging trends have been fast-tracked, including an increasingly remote workforce and an intensified focus on health and wellness. People, businesses, and communities are busting out of traditional models to explore the advantages of living in a highly connected world where time and space no longer constrain us.

Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. – Milton Friedman.

Traditional business models are obsolete.

A recent global study by Microsoft found that over 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to stay. Companies that once thought an online model couldn’t work are seeing new possibilities in a hybrid world of work including greater collaboration across geographies and access to global talent independent of location.

Currently, 53% of adults say purchasing takeout or delivery food is essential to the way they live. COVID pressed restauranteurs pivoted overnight, shifting from on-premises dining to creative, digitally enabled delivery and takeout models that are here to stay.

In February 2021, Spotify announced its new Work From Anywhere program, allowing talent to work from any geographic location within a specified time zone. This remote work model is informed by temporal rather than geographic boundaries.

The technically possible is now the socially acceptable.

COVID accelerated the mass adoption of digital platforms. Workout apps were downloaded at exponential rates once gyms closed. Many homes now house exercise equipment such as Peloton and The Mirror by Lululemon, which deliver on-demand live classes and personalized routines through AI integration. Communities are built entirely around virtual connections made between people across the world working out together, encouraging each other and tracking each other’s progress.

The virtual world continues to evolve and COVID has greatly accelerated our expectations about how we connect online. While online meetings and virtual gaming aren’t anything new, browser extensions like Netflix Party allow friends and family to socialize from separate households, mimicking the experience of watching a movie on the couch together.

A world without boundaries.

As companies continue to hire across geographical regions and time zones, and we create more and more opportunities to connect without being in the same room together, it is ever more apparent that a dissolution of structure is taking place. Where there was once a clear start and end to the workday, demarcated by arrival at and departure from the office, working from home has created a dynamic where in many cases, there’s no start, middle or end to the workday. Our extended remote work experience has also blurred the lines between our personal and work lives. While this can certainly pose some challenges, in extreme cases leading to burnout when employees are unable to maintain a sense of balance, we’re also rethinking our values. What can satisfactorily and expediently occur in the virtual world, and what do we crave in the physical world?

Our B+H staff surveys are consistent with the findings from many surveys we’ve conducted for clients. Time with family and friends, social interactions, creative problem solving, celebrations and the opportunity to deepen personal and professional relationships are among the many aspects of our lives we’ve all missed. Some of the advantages of remote working have been improved sleep, nutrition and exercise and the ability to execute and complete tasks in an environment more conducive to individual focus. Across the world we are gaining valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by the convergence of the virtual and physical realms.

A world of opportunity for higher education institutions. No sector of society is exempt from transformative impact. In response to an increasingly globally connected world that demands new thinking and new skills to solve progressively complex problems, a new global learning ecosystem is emerging. This ecosystem is addressing the glaring skills gap that’s emerging as a result of the explosion of information made available today and how often talent needs to reskill to keep up.

SHRM 2019 State of the Workplace Report


A dynamic world of work requires that talent not only learn the skills required for a certain position, but that they also continue to engage in lifelong learning that increases their knowledge and skillset as things inevitably change.

SHRM 2019 State of the Workplace Report

SHRM 2019 State of the Workplace Report

Your children can expect to change jobs and professions multiple times in their lifetimes, which means their career path will no longer follow a simple “learn-to-work” trajectory…but rather a path of “work-learn-work-learn-work-learn. – Heather E. McGowan, co-author of “The Adaptation Advantage”.

To compete, higher education institutions are reevaluating traditional models to remain relevant in a world where a multitude of affordable learning opportunities are available to everyone, anywhere, any time.

Organizational boundaries between education, business, industry, cities, and communities are becoming more porous. Collaboration allows higher education institutions to better organize themselves to serve the future workforce. In the virtual world, this translates into new offerings and ways in which we can make education more accessible to a larger population. In the physical world, this translates to education campuses that are integrated into communities and connected to innovation and entrepreneurial hubs. The line between what we teach, how we learn and where we work will continue to blur. This is a very exciting time to be in education.