There has been a lot written lately about the need for employees to return to working in the office. There are many reports of companies that have insisted that employees return. There are other reports about companies that are embracing the "pocket office,” and still others that are adopting a hybrid approach; some work from home mixed with time required in the office.
In 2007, there were, globally, 122 million smart phones circulating. By 2021, this had risen to 1,536 million. With the power of the smart phone, it's possible to almost literally have an office in your pocket. However, in some organizations, management has so much invested in their physical office space that not utilizing it fully seems like a waste of resources. In addition, the syndrome of "that's the way we've always done it" comes into play.
In her book "The Nowhere Office - Reinventing Work and the Workplace of the Future,” author Julia Hobsbawm uses the word "presenteeism" to refer to management's desire to bring employees back to the office. What presenteeism doesn’t take into account is the mobility of the modern workforce. By 2016, 38% of workers globally prized flexible working, while existing management models, for the most part, ignored the mobility factor of their workforce.
However, Dave Eisenberg of the protech company Zigg Capital in New York said: "Covid forced the world into an experiment on remote work as a viable replacement for in-office work for a lot of groups that would never have thought to test the hypothesis. And what they discovered is that while it might not be optimal, it was certainly plausible that if you’re in an intellectual pursuit you can actually do your job remotely. For anyone not in a physical service delivery function, and that’s a huge chunk of the economy, the remainder of people are able to work remotely in some capacity.”
Ben Page, Global CEO of market research firm Ipsos, which employs 18,000 people says: “We still need offices – we just don’t need them for work. Most businesses have now discovered that we need them for serendipity, for team meetings and collaboration, but not to sit there checking things. But we do need them for training, for building a culture.”
Finding the right balance in all of this upheaval is going to be difficult. Add in the fact that companies are dealing with a mix of Gen Z (1997 – 2012), Millennials (1981 – 1996), Gen X (1965 – 1980), and a smattering of Boomers II (1955 – 1964), all which have differing expectations of work and office, and the balancing act becomes even more difficult.
Going forward, the pressure on management to embrace the “pocket office” model is only going to increase, while management, in many cases, will be pursuing “presenteeism.” To ward off a breakdown in the workplace, employees are going to need to recognize the value of “presenteeism” for training, employee culture, the creation of face-to-face social capital, team meeting, etc. Management, in turn, will need to surrender the “watch them work” supervisory style, and adapt to the fact that actually seeing work being done is of no value. It’s the completion of work that matters.
Our professionals at ASN are constantly monitoring what is happening in the American workplace and would love to discuss it with you and help you make the right choices for your company. Just give us a call.