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What is the place of remote work in the post-pandemic world?

The pandemic changed the way remote work is seen both by employees and employers, but can it replace the traditional office work? What are the challenges it presents, and can we cope with them by moving to a hybrid work model?

For millions of employees, remote work has become the dominant mode of work since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, however it was developed prior to this crisis because of its convenience and efficiency. A laptop computer and reliable internet connection turn an employee’s sofa at home into as good a working place as his office cubicle. In fact, many companies, especially in the high-tech industry, have implemented remote work already before the pandemic for at least part of the time, but coming to the office remained the norm. The pandemic pushed us all into a giant experiment in remote work.

Remote work – does it work?

Not only that it worked, but it worked splendidly! Employees succeeded to fulfill their duties and numerous employers even reported of an increase in work capacity.

After the lockdowns were eased, employers re-opened their offices and expected their employees to be back as soon as possible. Those employers wanted to go “back to normal”, which was working full time at the office, but they did not take into account that it was not necessarily what their employees wanted.

In the relatively short period when quarantines were imposed worldwide, people went through a profound change, both as individuals and as a society. During the time spent at home, they rediscovered the joy of their family’s company, they started new hobbies and generally speaking, found a better use of their time, much of which was previously wasted in traffic jams. So, when they were asked to return to the office, they knew exactly what they would miss – a morning hug to their kid, an afternoon exercise session, and a lunch with their spouse. Furthermore, knowing they can successfully do the same work from home, they did not see a good reason to go back.

In cases when employers were too persistent on office work, they started experiencing resignations…

“The Great Resignation”

The term “The Great Resignation” was coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School of Texas A&M University, and it refers to the largest than ever number of resignations in the recent period of time. Klotz referred to the US, but a similar phenomenon happened in other countries as well.

Several studies and surveys link “The Great Resignation” to the rising popularity of remote work. On the face of it, having recognized the benefits of remote work people are leaving employers who do not allow remote work for at least part of the time. Moreover, job seekers are less willing to take new positions which do not offer the possibility to work from home. That is the obvious explanation, but there is a more complicated one.

The deeper, psychological cause of this phenomenon lies in a loss of emotional connection between the employee and his company. Remote work has a crucial disadvantage: when one doesn’t see one’s coworkers, and sometimes doesn’t even hear their voices for days, when one doesn’t know how the project one works on is proceeding, one gradually loses the emotional ties to his work, which eventually leads to a feeling of loss of purpose. The loss of purpose at work makes the way to resignation very short.

The limitations of technology

Technology is a blessing! It allows us to do things that were unimaginable in the past, but it has its limitations, especially when it comes to human communication.

The development of the human nature does not keep pace with mankind’s astounding technological advances of the 21st century. Digital technologies exist for less than one hundred years, while our psychology has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. Thus, even when we are operating a computer, working on a highly sophisticated project, deep inside we remain surprisingly similar to our ancestors, who collected fruit and hunted in forests. Essentially, we are communicating in the same manner as they did, and it should be noted that explicit words are only a part of the human communication game. We listen to subtle voice intonations, we read the body language and so, oftentimes subconsciously, we gain much unspoken but essential information. When some of it is missing, it becomes noticeably more challenging to fully understand what the other side is trying to tell us, and to make sure they understand us. So, when connecting via the phone or even by video conference, our interaction inevitably lacks many of those highly informative cues, and as those losses accumulate over time, the quality of the interaction deteriorates. As a result, the mutual understanding among the coworkers is likely to wane, while their frustration is likely to build up. The teamwork is liable to start weakening and finally the members of the team might stop feeling a part of the same social group.

Spontaneous interaction

When teams are working full time from home, spontaneous conversations disappear completely from their day, as every meeting is planned, and that is a major communicative loss, since those spontaneous “meetings between meetings” are, in fact, highly valuable. You can discuss a crazy idea you have with a colleague when you meet him while making coffee in the cafeteria, and many will testify it can inspire something spectacular, while if working at home, you will most probably drop your suggestion or simply forget it before the planned meeting. Thus, the spontaneous interactions which stimulate teamwork and enrich brainstorming, are, unfortunately, completely missing from remote work. Still, a third work model – hybrid work – presents an optimal solution.

How does hybrid work help us?

Hybrid work combines the advantages of both remote work and office attendance. Part of the week people work in the comfort of their home, without stressful commuting or traffic, enjoying their families and hobbies, and part of the week they meet at the office, interact face to face and share ideas with their colleagues.

We should pay attention to the significant difference between full time office work and the hybrid model. Whereas in the past people came to the office solely to do their work, nowadays it is of utmost importance that they gather to discuss new ideas and to cooperate creatively with their colleagues. Taking that into account, it is clear that the office space should change accordingly. To allow for more interactions between people, offices need more shared areas, conference rooms, cafeterias, and even various fun rooms.

Furthermore, when people do not need to be present at the office every day, fewer desks are simultaneously occupied. That is why more and more offices are applying a shared desk model or even adopt a hot desk system. The reduced number of working stations leaves plenty of room for new shared spaces.

Manage your space!

POC’s seating allocation system is an indispensable ally to any employer in the process of adjusting to a hybrid work model. Our platform visualizes your organization’s entire workspace on a detailed graphic map, making it easy to manage shared working stations, to assign a vacant desk to every employee, and to follow the changes in the seating plan with regard to the changes in the company’s headcount. The platform can be combined with a booking app, which is an effective tool for offices that are using hot-desks. The app is available to the employees as well, and they can book a desk for themselves independently. With POC, the new office arrangement will work smoothly, and the system will help employees and employers to welcome the change in the right way.

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