Why flexibility and safety is the future of work

video conferencing
(Image credit: Pixabay)

While remote work has been a rising trend for many years, Covid-19 has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for the movement. Many major companies have embraced the shift to remote work, for example with employees at Twitter being offered the choice to work from home indefinitely, going into the office if and when they choose. However, this can bring with it some disadvantages.

With many knowledge workers realizing that remote work isn't always the personal liberation that it's trumpeted to be, organizations need to look at offering employees the flexibility to choose. So what does the future of work look like—remote, in-office, or hybrid?

About the author

Asam Akhtar is UK Manager at Envoy

In my opinion, it’s all about hybrid work. By creating a hybrid work environment, employees are empowered with the flexibility to choose where they want to work and when—whether sometimes in the office, at home or even in a co-working space. The choice is theirs to make. But first, businesses need to create safe and flexible workspaces to enable this future of work.

The pitfalls of remote work

Working exclusively at home has become a reality for many across the globe, blurring the lines between work and life. As a result, staff are working more hours, time is wasted in unnecessary meetings or video calls, and burnout and imposter syndrome is on the rise. According to a new report, the remote working environment has resulted in people working nearly two hours more each day. Unsurprisingly, employees are reporting high levels of mental fatigue, with three quarters (75%) of the nation’s workforce experiencing burnout in the past year—more than the global average of 71%.

Even as Facebook, Aviva, Twitter and many other companies are developing plans to let employees work remotely forever, the experiences of Yahoo! is a reminder of the history of remote working failure. Back in 2013 Yahoo! Withdrew its remote work policy, upheaving the lives of several hundred employees who were working from home full time, as they noted the speed and quality of work were often sacrificed in the remote environment. While we now have new technology to support remote collaboration, such as video conferencing and collaboration tools, remote work will never replace those face-to-face interactions—something that 90% of employees miss about the workplace. Today, employees are lacking social contact inside and outside of their working lives—leading many to realize that 100% remote work just isn’t sustainable. The answer is to offer both work environments to employees.

Workplace technology can help

With the pace of vaccination rollouts expected to continue at a steady rate, businesses need to be prepared to offer flexible working arrangements, as early as summer 2021. This will be entirely dependent on whether employees want to work from home or return to the office, but companies must offer an additional option to employees.

 In order to offer employees this choice, businesses need to empower teams to want to return to work, and safety is likely what's holding them back—so if we have the solutions to ensure they're safe, this is the first step. For companies to create a safe, flexible workplace, they need solutions that help them understand the people in their space and empower those people to connect, focus, and collaborate. With this information, companies can prevent overcrowding in the office, and respond in real-time to enforce capacity control, to improve employee experience, collaboration, and productivity. To empower teams to return to the office, employers need to have the technology in place to safeguard them.

Effective space management

Fortunately, there are technology solutions available to help organizations to understand and control who and when someone is coming into the office, and track how they use the space when they are there. With the appropriate technology in place, businesses can consolidate this data into a single place, enabling workplace teams to make informed decisions about everything—from who to allow in the office, to how many desks and rooms they need in the office, and how many staff they need to support employees while they're there. This in turn empowers employees to set their schedule for working in the office/on-site and book the space they need.

Fundamentally, through an easy and automatic desk booking system, businesses can adapt space for safety and flexibility, allowing for data to be monitored. For example, one of our customers Lionsgate, a global subscription platform with world-class motion picture and television studio operations, leverages our Desks feature to make informed decisions about their workplace footprint. With this feature, the company’s workstations are used efficiently and no space is wasted, encouraging the cross-functional collaboration that has been so dearly missed since the start of the pandemic.

Future of work

The last year has been one of the greatest unplanned remote work experiments for businesses. In some ways, we can say that we passed the test with flying colors, through our collective resilience and innovation. However, for the vast majority, it has meant longer hours, more virtual meetings, and blurred lines between work and personal life. For organizations, they have had to continually adapt to navigating the financial and operational challenges of the pandemic. The reality is that this current working from home situation is born out of necessity and is not sustainable. Organizations need to take action to turn massive complexity into meaningful change.

While every company is different and will have varying views on their ideal work environment, with the right solutions in place organizations have the flexibility to choose how they want to work. To support a hybrid work environment, employers need to ensure safety precautions are enforced in the workplace—to create a safe and flexible workplace where employees can focus, connect, and collaborate. The solution is seeking a platform that offers employees greater visibility and control over who comes into the workplace and empowers people to do their best work in the hybrid work environment. If successful, your company will not only be safeguarded amidst the pandemic, but set to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

Asam Akhtar is UK Manager at Envoy