So, we all know about how many workforces went hybrid during the pandemic. It begs the question: How has that worked out? Is the pendulum swinging back now in favor of at-the-office work, or are remote and hybrid practices here to stay?
Attendees at this year’s Future of Work Expo in Fort Lauderdale, FL were treated to a discussion about where the future of work may be headed towards. Titled "Rethinking the Organization: Success Strategies for Hybrid Work," the 45-minute panel discussion was led by IT industry veteran analyst, Jon Arnold, Principal at J Arnold & Associates
So, back to our questions: For one, how will work and the global workplace change as we emerge from the pandemic? Arnold displayed the results from one major study, which examined nearly 80,000 data points collected since March of 2020. The study arrived at five basic conclusions:
- Hybrid work isn't a new concept.
- Hybrid work adoption success varies.
- Worker satisfaction rises when they have more freedom.
- Businesses are experiencing a major real-estate adjustment.
- Hybrid success relies upon trust and technology implementations.
Many employees only want to come into the office when it's necessary. They don't hang around at the water cooler anymore. "A lot of your workers actually get upset when you try to get them into the office," said panelist Chris Fine, CEO of Integrated Technologies.
Panelist Darren Himebrook, founder of Seekr, agreed. He explained how he’s worked with students who have completed their whole college career on line. "I had to present them with solid reasons as to why it was important to get together in person," he said. "In their world, you have to have reasons for everything."
Take Generation Z, for instance. “If you’re part of Gen Z and you've been in the workforce for five years or less, remote work is probably the only work style you know,” Fine said. "It makes collaborating more difficult when you don't get to see or physically connect with each other regularly.”
C-suite types are coming to an opinion that differs from that held by the younger members of their workforce. Panel member Jeff Kubick, Head of Global Voice Service Marketing at Poly (now owned by Hewlett Packard), said there are many bosses who still think that if they can't see you, you aren't working. “True or false, the perception remains,” he said. "At any rate, we're concentrating on enabling employees with tools to make their time the most productive possible.”
Panelist Tom Phelan, Chief Technology Officer at United Office, said the adoption of remote work for can lead to a lack of spontaneity in communications. The trust that's gained by hanging out together is absent when the workforce goes totally remote.
On the other hand, thinking is work, too. "Just because you're sitting there staring at the ceiling doesn't mean you aren't working," he said.
(Yeah, try telling that to the tracking software.)
So, it's up to each company to decide how much direct control they need over their remove workers. "Companies have a wide variety of tool sets at their fingertips," Himebrook said. "There's lots of mental bandwidth out there now."
All those tools-at-hand create a different challenge: Which tools do I use, for example? "It's really important to establish baselines so you can get past the tool barrier," Himebrook said.
A baseline of trust, encouragement, and technological know-how can support most teams, be it remote or in person. The future of work will likely continue to see activity for both.
Edited by Alex Passett