In this edition of the Dasym Horizons, we take a deeper look at the implications that come with the new normal hybrid workplace. We try to define what is necessary to optimize hybrid working and what kind of adaptations could improve existing offices.
Following the pandemic, ‘work-from-home’ (WFH) has become just normal. Hardly a month goes by without a report claiming that employees are not only happier at home, but also more productive and healthier, as well as saving time and money on the commute. These monetary savings, however, are slightly reduced because of current increased energy prices. Nevertheless, whenever the topic on WFH comes up, the discussion mostly centers on the advantages. If any disadvantages come up, it mostly concerns the increased isolation, distractions, the risk of overworking, or alternatively the lack of motivation. Some people simply cannot create a quiet working space at home or need the structure of the office. In setting up their WFH policies, however, employers should also consider the long-term effects. Research at Microsoft, for instance, has already shown that the changed dynamic of social interaction through virtual channels can actually hurt productivity. While we have learned to better collaborate virtually, these collaboration networks tend to be more static and siloed, with fewer bridges between disparate parts, affecting long-term innovation.
Much of the current discussions on working from home focus on how many days we are allowed to work from home, with companies trying to bring people back to the office by optimizing those places for socializing and collaborative group work. This focus, however, overlooks one important aspect of work: a large share of it (between a third and a half) is done alone. Moreover, since the pandemic, we do a significant part of our collaborative work (e.g. meetings) virtually. An effective workplace will have to support focus work, but also collaborative groups in both physical and virtual places. Office buildings tend to focus on group work, while homes fill the gap for focus and virtual group work. Beyond the home and the office, other workspaces are also emerging: virtual ones in the metaverse, co-working spaces located somewhere between home and the office, or locations abroad for the digital nomads who work while traveling. In the future, we will work simply where we are most productive and happiest – and that future is arriving fast.