Where will we work?
Before 2020 this wasn’t a question for most of us, but in the past year and a half it’s become a major debate.
The conversation has taken a lot of swerves. At first many of us struggled to adapt to work from home. Then the focus turned to the new-found freedom from commutes and soul-sucking offices. Later many people began to feel Zoom fatigue and missed seeing their coworkers. Recently, some employers have even suggested they would end the work from home dream as soon as they had the chance.
Now that the dust is settling it looks like we will take the path of compromise. Rather than a radical new office-free future or a boring return to the 9 to 5 office life, we have hybrid work.
Hybrid work means sometimes we work in the office, and sometimes we work at home. On the one hand, the isolation of working alone is lessened, while on the other, we can still enjoy the benefits of being at home more often. There’s no need to commit to one location or the other- organizations or even individual employees can do what’s best for their situation.
Work from home: Great but not good enough
In fact, most people found the transition to work from home to be easy. Many of the concerns that we’ve heard about- fewer chances for advancement, harder to manage relationships with managers- did not actually panned out for most.
Even Zoom fatigue is not a huge problem for most people. A majority see Zoom as a good substitute for in-person work relationships.
This isn’t a universal opinion, however. People who were new to remote work felt less connected to their colleagues. Younger workers also reported more difficulty feeling motivated, and Generation Z tends to want more face-to-face interaction.
In short, work from home has actually been great for most. But many people need flexibility and support.
Overcoming remote collaboration challenges
Even if most employees say Zoom calls don’t bother them, are they as productive as real-life interactions?
There are undeniable differences between real life and video collaboration. Some feel free-wheeling, natural conversations are more likely to happen in person and lead to more innovation as people exchange ideas.
Video calls need to be planned, and even with fast connections are plagued by short but noticeable delays that can throw off a discussion’s tempo and create stress. Multiple people speaking at once may be an important part of group discussions but is more annoying on conference calls. Stress can also come from interruptions that are hard to avoid at home, such as dogs barking or construction. In some cases employees feel calls are pointless, leading them to zone out during calls or even do a little housework.
Most of these challenges stem from technical limitations which can be overcome with new product features. For example, Zoom’s breakout rooms allow small group discussions to break off of larger meetings. AVerMedia developed AI noise reduction to prevent meetings from being interrupted by household noises.
Face time & equity
In addition to concerns about productivity, many managers want workers back in the office for face time, because they feel it’s important to see employees getting work done. However, this could penalize those with caregiving or other responsibilities that make it difficult for them to work a 9 to 5 schedule or do overtime. In this situation work from home is more equitable- people who were held back before can now work flexible hours from home.
Betting on Hybrid
Out of this debate we get a compromise: rather than force employees out of work from home many employers have decided to go with the hybrid work. In fact, they’re betting that given the option, most workers will return to the office of their own free will.
For example, Facebook has declared that Work from Home is the future, and that up to 50% of its workforce will work remotely, while at the same time signing a lease for expensive new office space. For its part Google has allowed long-term remote work- but 60% of eligible employees have returned to the office anyway, on a hybrid work basis.
Overall, two-thirds of employers want to start a “productivity anywhere” model. These companies tend to be high-growth, showing it’s the preference of more efficient and more innovative companies. No-growth companies in contrast tend to insist on either all work from home or all in-office.
The pandemic has definitively demonstrated that for many of us, yes, work can actually be done from home. This is in no small part thanks to the fast advances video collaboration technology made in the several years before the pandemic.
But not all of us are able to or want to work from home, at least not all the time.
So the easiest resolution is to go with the flow and let people do what’s best for them. Most of us will go back to the office, at least sometimes. But now those of us who struggled with 9 to 5 at the office get the flexibility they need.
As we all adjust to hybrid work and encounter new challenges we at AVerMedia will continue creating new solutions that help workers of all backgrounds and needs. Please visit our website contact us if you have any questions about how to adapt to the hybrid work era!