The workplace of Tomorrow
Updated: Mar 2
At the opening of last year, we were all looking forward to business as usual, and then the pandemic struck.
There is no way to talk about 2020 without considering COVID-19. For some, it led to personal tragedies, for some professional. Lockdowns and Work-From-Home mandates have swept the world and affected each of us. Yet, in the middle of the hardest times, change and innovation grow strong. Some industries have seen an unparalleled boom. Some workplaces have radically changed what they do and how they do it. Many organisations have realised that allowing their employees to work from home did not negatively affect their bottom line. Some were even able to increase profits despite lower revenue, due in large to the reduced costs of office space and travel.
Shying away from the bottom line and instead considering productivity, 2020 gave us similar trends: productivity largely remained at the same level, and in some cases was boosted as people were able to work on their own terms.
A global tech firm asked its many thousand employees if they'd like to return to the office full-time after the pandemic. A whopping 92% of respondents said "no". This number is echoed by a study performed by Swedish NOVUS in September of 2020, which concluded that 9/10 people want to work from home at least 1 day every week.
What does this strong desire to continue working from home say about the workplace of tomorrow? Attractive tech firms such as Spotify and Hubspot have already declared themselves remote-first workplaces, allowing their employees to work from anywhere indefinitely. New tools for video conversations, the interconnectivity of our world, and the rise of cloud collaboration have all paved the way for this development, and it seems the change is here to stay.
But what about the people left behind? Many organisations and teams have members that are stubbornly still commuting to the office, still occupying their desk and getting inspired by the curated interiors of offices around the world. The people that crave the social interaction you can only get through sharing a room. What place will the workplace of tomorrow be able to offer these troopers? Humanity is a social animal, at its core. People crave social interaction, teams need Inclusion and Belonging to function efficiently. How is does this fit into the workplace of tomorrow?
Studies show that prolonged work from home can be a stress-building factor: difficulties differentiating between work and family, private and professional, available and not, are all things that can eat away at the mental well-being of people. A recent study concluded that due to the proximity to a screen and camera in a video call, people can appear larger (and therefore closer, more threatening) when seen on a screen compared to in person. This can lead to stress, as the constant barrage of video calls all trigger low-key primitive threat responses in the receiver.
The results of this new reality are also showing: Some organisations have lost as much as 20% of their workforce, despite not officially discharging anyone.
The question on everyone's mind is, "how do we reap the benefits of these trends, without the pitfalls?"
The answer is as easy as it is boring: Listen to your employees and team members. Support each individual according to their individual needs. This is harder than ever when the casual conversation isn't available to those not working from the office, but it also emphasises the importance of inclusion, engagement, and belonging in a way that has never been quite as clear earlier. Inclusion, engagement and belonging are all active actions that need to be curated and promoted.
If anything, the workplace of tomorrow is flexible, human and accomodating. Let's build that together.