Microsoft on Monday announced that it would begin welcoming employees back to the office on March 29. The company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters, and nearby campuses will start shifting to a hybrid work approach.
Accompanying the announcement, the tech giant also released findings from a global survey of more than 30,000 professionals on hybrid work. 73% of workers said they want flexible work-from-home policies to stay, and 65% of respondents wanted more in-person time with their teams after the pandemic.
All these indicate one possibility: the office is not going anywhere. However, the office work, the way we know it, will never be the same. With employees and companies alike betting big on flexibility, workplaces will depend on technologies in more ways than ever. From remote work solutions to office collaboration tools, technology is already redefining work remarkably.
How office work will change after the pandemic
The way offices operate, and employees work will change permanently after the pandemic. Experts say these changes will cover everything, from where we work to how our productivity is measured. Let’s dive deeper and find out how these trends would impact your work or business.
1. Work from home is not going anywhere
As found in the Microsoft survey mentioned above, many employees will continue to work from home even after the pandemic is brought to heel. Work-from-home arrangements have worked surprisingly well for most employees and employers. While employees were more productive from home, employers got a chance to do away with expensive real estate costs.
Better yet, the most significant challenges to remote work are likely to vanish once the health crisis is over. For instance, workers no longer have to mix WFH with the homeschooling of their children. Plus, the rapid evolution of remote work solutions means remote is likely to improve further.
“One of the few great upsides of the pandemic is we’ve accelerated 25 years of a drift toward working from home in one year,” Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University professor who studies remote work, told Vox.
2. Offices will exist, but employees will use them differently
As part of their post-COVID strategy, many companies are downsizing their physical office presence. However, almost no company is getting rid of offices altogether. The traditional office will still play a pivotal role in organizations’ day-to-day operations. But those roles will be different from the ones in Before Times.
In-person time in the office will likely be more focused on collaborative work. Such team efforts have been one of the biggest challenges of remote work. Companies also remain interested in the problem-solving environment that a physical office nurtures.
3. Workers’ yearning for flexibility will end
Employees across sectors, for years, have complained about lack of flexibility in their work. With work from home, those needs were fulfilled. Many employees said they were getting more sleep and even exercising more. “I’m making myself healthier food. I know my neighbors more,” said Ali Rayl, VP of customer experience at Slack.
However, some workers are feeling the downside of flexibility as well. They say there is an increased feeling that work doesn’t end. Employees are also reporting exhaustion due to the need to attend more Zoom calls in remote work. They feel managing the long-debated work-life-balance is tough when the line between the two is blurred. But most employees are finding ways to manage these problems, keeping their remote work performance consistent.
4. Some workers will benefit from WFH, while others struggle
It was clear early in the remote work boom that works from home will not evenly benefit everyone. Some professionals have enjoyed working from home while others haven’t so much. Not all workers could work from home in the first place. The tech sector, for example, had no trouble quickly moving online. While other sectors like banking and hospitality struggled to manage operations remotely.
Besides, work-from-home feasibility is starkly divided by income and education. Workers in high-skilled jobs were more likely to be able to work remotely, according to findings of surveys by Pew Research Center. On the contrary, workers in lower-paying jobs were more likely to face the risks of COVID-19 at work. Remote work experts say the divide between who can and cannot work from home will persist even after the pandemic.
5. AI and automation will have bigger roles
As you already know, many companies laid off during the pandemic. Now, these companies must manage operations with a leaner workforce than ever. It also means that the remaining employees must rely more heavily on enterprise tech solutions. And that’s where the role of AI and automation come into play.
Organizations that are planning to be more agile are also likely to outsource more work. And the roles of contract work and freelancing are also expected to grow significantly. Employees will significantly benefit from the increasing adoption of automation solutions and AI. Their jobs will become less tedious.
Wayne Kurtzman, research director at the marketing research firm IDC, says workplace software solutions will incorporate a lot more AI and ML in the next five years. It will help knowledge workers do their jobs with less effort.
6. Productivity measurement will change dramatically
In the post-COVID corporate world, the way managers measure an employee’s productivity will change. Experts say productivity metrics will be more qualitative. With the hybrid work model changing so many things, the focus will be on the outcome of an employee’s work rather than the amount of time spent.
“When I think about two years ago, how did you evaluate people in a workplace setting, it was aptitude, attitude, and attendance. Now that you don’t have those things on a daily basis, the concentration is on output,” said Kate Duchene, CEO of consulting firm Resources Global Professionals.
7. Workplace communication will be more asynchronous
As most companies adopt a hybrid work model, the way their teams communicate will change. For starters, don’t expect your colleagues to get back to you right away. In a traditional office setting, you can walk up to your coworker or boss to ask or say something. But that’s not the case with a remote or virtual work arrangement.
However, workplace collaboration tools are evolving remarkably to bring the remote work experience closer to in-office work. Workplace software makers are trying to replace synchronous communication like in-person chats and video calls with conversations during workers’ leisure, such as messages and recorded videos.
8. Company culture will be more difficult to create
Corporate culture has long been a buzzword across industries. Many organizations found it a challenging undertaking even during the ‘normal’ times. The pandemic made it even more arduous. Workplace culture is much harder to create – and sustain – when workers are not under the same roof.
Plus, remote work has limited employees’ interactions with a core group of people. It’s usually the team they work on. That means their communication with a wider group of people as they did during in-office work has vanished. And onboarding metrics during the pandemic indicate that the trend will continue. In the pandemic-era work setting, the number of new connections new hires make is down by 17% compared with pre-pandemic, according to data from Time Is Ltd.
9. More coworkers will live in different cities
As the hybrid work model enables more people to work from anywhere, more people will. During the pandemic, remote job postings have increased five-fold in LinkedIn compared with last year. And roughly half of the workers said they’re planning to move and work remotely, according to surveys by both Microsoft and Owl Labs.
It has the potential to reverse the decades-long move toward big cities. In the U.S., rents have already fallen in cities like New York and San Francisco. At the same time, residential real estate demands surged in second-and third-tier cities.
10. Employees will be more human at work
The pandemic enabled us to get closer to coworkers’ lives. We all saw each other’s living rooms, pets, and kinds during Zoom calls. And it prompted a more friendly relationship among coworkers. It humanized people. That’s not just because we saw more of others’ interior lives, but we faced this unprecedented health crisis together.
One in six people reported crying with a coworker in the pandemic-altered year, according to a study by Microsoft. And nearly one in three employees said they are more likely to be their authentic selves at work than pre-pandemic. Besides, 40% of workers said they were less embarrassed when their home life showed up at work. These shifts in employee attitudes indicate a better sense of well-being, higher productivity, and a more positive outlook of work, according to the Microsoft study.
All these trends suggest that the workplace — and office work — will be virtually unrecognizable from what it used to be. And technology has perhaps the most crucial role in holding these elements of transformations together. The hybrid-work era will likely spawn a new wave of tech requirements to accommodate employees. At OrangeMantra, we capitalize on our decades-long experience to build exceptionally customized tech solutions for your office. Be it enterprise software or remote work solutions, we are here to help you.
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