Over a year has passed since the global workforce embarked on a universal working from home experiment. The daily commute was finally put on hold. Meeting rooms were replaced by our colleague's bedrooms, kitchens, and home offices. We have seen a more human side to our bosses and how they interact with their children as video conferencing calls became the norm.
Busy business districts quickly began to resemble ghost towns, and businesses began to question the expensive leases for office space that might no longer be required. FlexJobs reported that remote workers saved $4,000 a year by not spending their earnings on travel, clothes, food, and frequent trips to the coffee shop.
Despite the positives, the novelty of working from home began to wear off with the mounting pressure of being permanently connected to digital communication methods across multiple devices.
Emails, texts, video calls, social media, and collaborative platforms bombarded workers with an onslaught of notifications that constantly demanded their attention. People had to adjust to their new normal and learn how to work from home, which has obviously brought some challenges, especially regarding time management.
Suddenly many looked back at their former office lives and dreamt of switching off when they left the office at 5 pm. Could too much of anything be a bad thing?
The future of work
There is an increasing argument that it's time to re-configure and redesign the workplace. There are benefits from working from home and alongside our colleagues in the office. Being part of the collaborative group and enabling people to work individually or get together in in-person to work on a project delivers much-needed flexibility.
Every business is exploring a new future of work. But it's a journey rather than a destination, and nobody has a definitive answer on what we can expect on the road ahead.
Twitter has advised its staff that they are free to work from home indefinitely. Google is taking a very different approach and recently delivered a new set of remote work guidelines, which involves a new timetable to staff back into the office.
From Sept 1st, Google employees who want to work remotely for more than 14 days per year will need to formally apply for the privilege. Amazon also released a statement that revealed its intent to return to an office-centric culture. Despite the benefits of working from home, some believe their teams can collaborate and learn together more effectively when in the same office space.
There is no such thing as an all-or-nothing approach to work. Introverts and extroverts will struggle and thrive in different environments. Those who are blessed with both traits will enjoy being in the office and work closely with their team. Equally, they will want the option of working from home when they need to avoid distractions and focus on completing a task to meet an important deadline.
The future of work should not be about the age-old argument of working from home vs. working from the office.
If we have learned anything over the last 12 months, it’s that we need a more flexible and hybrid approach to work that gives every employee the best of both worlds.
Microsoft favoured this approach, the tech giant announced late last year that working remotely up to half the time would be considered standard.
Many businesses are waking up to the fact that their digital transformation roadmap will need to continuously grow and evolve. Designing a new workforce requires every leader to build a bridge between the office and the remote worker. But to do that, they will need to overcome a series of technological challenges.
Bridging the hybrid work gap with technology
Hybrid working requires every business to fill the gaps in their tech stack. IT is no longer just the guardian of the corporate network that says no too much and takes a year to deliver a project. Rather than a "break-fix" mindset, HR will be looking for front house technologies that help them serve employees that are location agnostic. Employee support, training, and engagement are all desperately in need of an upgrade.
IT is challenged with stepping up and being seen as agile business enablers rather than blockers. They need to invest time to understand the needs of business users and dare to experiment with flexibility-supporting technology before it's needed rather than reacting to it. Tech teams also need to provide additional training for new tools that will help support flexible working methods.
The recent changes in how we work have also presented organizations with the perfect opportunity to clear out their legacy applications that do not operate in a hybrid working environment. Replacing old software from a bloated application estate with a unified, efficient, and collaborative set of tools in a more tech-enabled environment would deliver a vast improvement.
When combined with flexible working policies, technology can help create a new future of work that benefits everyone.
There is no longer room in any business for the phrase, "But we've always done it this way." To attract the best talent, employers need to provide employees with the freedom and flexibility to choose how and where they work. For too long, businesses implemented technology and reduced headcount. To thrive and survive in a post-pandemic world, leaders will need to embrace a future of work that consists of the best of both worlds by seamlessly intertwining technology and human capability.