A quick look at history will show us how radical changes were often preceded by challenges. Throughout time, we can see that reforms in conventional systems were mostly tied to the occurrence of momentous events.
In the case of remote work, the catalyst was COVID-19. Though work from home was not an alien concept in organizations, it was a model that wasn’t usually employed. Some offered it as a perk, while some chose it as a last resort. But nobody would have imagined that one day it could become a normal work model.
In April 2020, James Gorman, the CEO of Morgan Stanley, said, “If you’d said three months ago that 90% of our employees will be working from home and the firm would be functioning fine, I’d say that is a test I’m not prepared to take because the downside of being wrong on that is massive.”
Despite all the challenges, organizations worldwide have coped well with remote work. As the perils of the pandemic are beginning to subside, what changes are we to expect in work culture?
Remote Work Is Here To Stay
A study conducted by Gartner found that 82% of organizations plan to follow a partial work-from-home routine post-COVID, and 47% are planning for a permanent work-from-home setup.
So it seems quite certain that remote work will not be disappearing anytime soon.
The big companies have already stepped into the game. While Twitter told its employees that they could work from home indefinitely, Facebook has also been vocal about their adaption to remote work.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, said, “I think we’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale, for sure, but we’re going to do this in a way that is measured, and thoughtful and responsible, and in phases over time.”
But it is essential to see that the ability to work remotely depends hugely on the context of the jobs. Jobs that require frequent interaction with people, equipment, or machinery, like laboratory activities, agriculture, manufacturing, and sales cannot work remotely. In comparison, IT-related jobs like coding or testing can carry on with remote work without losing effectiveness.
While remote work will continue its stay, it will not completely replace the traditional office setup. We will be looking at a model that combines remote and on-site models, that is, a hybrid workspace model.
The Move Toward Hybrid
The unprecedented circumstances brought about by COVID-19 put most people through a journey of self-introspection. In the workplace scenario, employees and employers were reflecting on the traditional office culture that they had been following rigorously for years. They were discovering that there were other equally efficient working methods they could adopt.
Some employees found remote work very convenient due to the flexibility, location independence, and freedom it gave. Some organizations felt that the non-necessity of office space and reduced expenses related to it were very beneficial.
Altogether, it leads to the conclusion that there isn’t going to be a 100% shift back to the office. Employees will be splitting their time between home and office. A hybrid work model is a strategy that is built on this foundation.
In this model, employees may be required to go to the office only a few days a week. These could be for in-person meetings, team-building activities, or collaborations requiring face-to-face interaction. For carrying out individual work, remote working days would be preferred.
A transition to this hybrid work environment would require more management. Building personal relationships and developing an office culture is going to be challenging with the hybrid work model. The lack of constantly being in a shared space that encourages communication will be felt; however, with proper planning, the use of digital transformation technologies like IoT; 5G,;and excellent leadership skills, it can be made efficient and successful.
What does a hybrid work model indicate in terms of physical office spaces? Increase in remote work means less is the need for large office spaces. Organizations are already cutting down on office space to reduce real-estate-related expenses.
A workspace trend that accentuates hybrid work models and is gaining attention is the hub and spoke model offices. This model has a hub, a central office space that is designed for periodic meetings and discussions, and several small office spaces called spokes at different locations to carry out the organization’s management functions.
This model is well-received by both employees and employers, as it benefits both parties well. For employers, operational costs are cut down largely because of small offices that can be located away from mainstream locations. For employees, this distributed office model means having a workspace close to where they live, which cuts down travel and related expenses for them.
As hubs would be the location where employees get together once in a while, their design would have more focus on creating a collaborative space rather than employing the typical cubicle setup. And since most of the individual work would be done by employees from their homes, that kind of open space would be ideal for hubs.
And what about the workspace at home? Since work from home does seem to be a long-term prospect, it is best to set up a dedicated workspace in your home if you haven’t already. Some tips that will help make your workspace at home better are:
- Choose a location that is away from distractions like the TV, kids play area, etc.
- Keep your workspace and relaxation space separate. Avoid working from bed or couch.
- Make sure your workspace has proper lighting to reduce eyestrain.
- Have a proper table and chair arrangement that helps you maintain your posture while working and gives you good body support.
- Ensure that your workspace has power outlets nearby and gets good internet connectivity.
- Personalize your workspace with plants, craft items, pinboards, or anything of your preference.
If you are finding any difficulty maintaining your workspace at home, there are several books and online resources that might help you. Work From Home: How to be Efficient, Energized, & Focused When Working from Home is a book that will help you succeed in effectively performing your work at home while maintaining your mental health.
Refining Work Management
Whatever we say or do, work from home cannot equal an office environment. Reduced social interaction can take a toll on employees’ mental health. Therefore, in the remote work setup, it is essential to create more opportunities for collaboration and engagement.
Organizations across several industries are employing the Internet of Things to stay connected with their workforce. It is really helping to enhance productivity and improve work quality. But it’s important to understand that it is not only about employing the best of technology but also about providing empathetic leadership.
The HR departments of organizations have to make a greater effort to maintain an environment where employees’ well-being is given first priority. They also have to refine several management processes like employee recruitment and performance assessment.
Remote hiring is a trend that is growing in popularity.
Organizations have been quick in adopting virtual hiring. Interviewing candidates through voice and video calls, evaluating candidates social media platforms to assess their talent, etc. will become the normal procedure for recruitment.
Remote work is also affecting the performance assessment of employees. In the future, we will see performance reviews being conducted on a regular basis rather than annually or bi-annually. This continuous feedback will help managers guide employees in the right direction, and for employees, this will help them better manage their job responsibilities.
Organizations will also be giving more focus to the quantity and quality of work done over the amount of time spent working. The emphasis will be on performance rather than keeping a strict work schedule.
Organizations will have to redefine their performance metrics and rethink how they set and meet goals. They should familiarize themselves with remote work resources to make the remote journey successful for everyone. Refining the work management process will be critical in embracing the remote work trend.
Is Remote Work Working?
According to several studies conducted across different organizations, remote work has not adversely affected productivity. The productivity of employees has remained the same, and in some cases even increased after the shift to remote work.
So far, remote work is definitely working. It’s challenging, but with the right learning and planning, you can create good habits for remote work to help you stay efficient and productive.
The future of remote work will require several changes in workspace outlook, culture, management, and operation. It calls for rethinking, redesigning, and reevaluating long-established processes.
But as the saying goes, change is the only constant.