It’s time to retire the phrase the future of work; that future is today’s now of work. Business leaders need to pay attention. It’s long been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. That’s exactly what’s playing out today as many businesses adjust — sometimes scramble — to meet the new realities of a world still recovering from Covid. What only months ago seemed futuristic — work-from-home for more job categories than ever, newly created hybrid workforces and workplaces, company culture relying more and more on digital tools — is fast becoming mainstream.

In fact, these new developments are rapidly becoming part of many companies’ business models. Boards need to calculate and incorporate these changes into their stewardship — or the companies they lead will fall behind.

From my perspective as the head of a human capital firm, we’re seeing multiple changes in both demand and supply of project based consulting.

Demand. On the demand side, clients are committing to operating in a different paradigm with agility at the core. It means more distributed leadership, nimble finances and empathy, as well as a new workforce strategy based on radical agility.

Take each in turn, starting with distributed leadership. As change expert John Kotter says, “The most successful change comes from mobilizing more leadership from many more people.”

A recent research study, “Human Agility in the Now of Work,” conducted by my firm, RGP, bears this out. We found that organizations that give more autonomy to employees experience 18% more benefits. Command-and-control is not just dated: It’s outdated.

On the financial front, we found that organizations with a healthy financial rest state are better equipped to manage risk more nimbly. Without the ability to take financial risks, when a macro event hits, companies face a different kind of risk: retreating into survival mode.

Radical empathy for an agile workforce is also fast becoming a must. Greater empathy enables managers to respect the unique needs and goals of each team member, matching work assignments to support both performance and satisfaction. Flexibility is the new currency and, combined with transparency, can provide the modern fuel for an engaged workforce.

Our research bears these concepts out. Companies with a deep-rooted culture of innovation, fueled by an agile workforce managed with empathy, are 15% more likely to experience benefits from macro events.

To put this into practice, leaders should encourage managers to connect with each other and their direct reports on a more personal level. This becomes especially critical during crisis events when work burnout becomes prevalent and people find it difficult to separate work and home life.

Supply. On the supply side, our research confirmed that workers highly value having control, choice and diverse experiences in the workplace. Where to work, when to work and on what to work are increasingly vital considerations for professionals at all levels.

According to our research, 59% of participants said their company supports alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5 workday, 12% saw more benefits from actively investing in workplace experiences and 10% saw more benefits resulting from change initiatives.

The key is not just handling the logistics of the modern ecosystem of work. That’s table stakes. More important is overcoming the challenge of widening and deepening company culture for the long run in an age where face-to-face contact is becoming rarer.

Our research shows that buy-in is key. “The more you expect people to be nimble and poised at all moments for change, the more you need them deeply, deeply rooted in why we’re doing this and what it’s here for,” Microsoft CTO Lorraine Bardeen told our researchers. “You have to have certainty about the mission and flexibility about how and what and by when.”

Finally, with talent in the driver’s seat and companies quickly adjusting, it’s not just management that needs to change how they lead because of the transforming world of work and expectations of the workforce. Boards do, too.

We’re past the future being predicted — it’s actively being created now. It’s time to step up, or competitors will instead.