WFH has now been accepted as the new normal and many companies have announced plans to extend the ‘work from home” facility indefinitely. While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have made public proclamations of being in favor of greater flexibility, the reality is that most CEOs has started making noises in favor of the camaraderie that comes from being in offices.
So how will all this play out. Here are some of the hypothesis floating around.
1. People will start heading back to offices in greater numbers than predicted
According to data compiled by security company Kastle Systems, only about 28% of US office workers have got back to their offices. But this is likely to change in the near future. Senior leaders are already lamenting the loss of collaboration and company culture. The fear is that once people start working remotely, and job security in a pandemic ceases to be an issue, the relationships at workplace will become increasingly transactional. This lack of relationships at the workplace will result in increased attrition which will cost more than any savings from reduction in offices.
2. Men will start coming to offices more often than women
A recent poll of 2300 employees in UK clearly demonstrates that women show increased preference to work from home as compared to men. Women were having a hard time juggling work and increased workload at home, and may embrace the respite provided by the WFH facility that companies are providing – even though there are potential caveats.
3. More promotions for men as compared to women
“Out of sight, out of mind” is a reality in modern workplaces, where promotions and growth are highly co-related to presence in the offices and when the manager needs them. Whil more and more men will start showing up in offices, women may still opt for the flexibility that comes from working from home. While this is good in the short term as it reduces the load on women juggling more roles, it is also likely to intensify gender inequality by reinforcing stereotypes. All this will lead to women being bypassed for promotions and losing earning potential over lifetime and not being able to achieve their true potential.
4. Many people may rather quit than come to the office
Many workers have embraced WFH as the new normal and cannot imagine a reality where they would have to restart their long commute and come back completely exhausted. They have started enjoying having lunch with their families and getting to play with their kids. They would rather quit and choose other companies that respect their lifestyle choice.
5. Hybrid Formats will become more common
While we predict that more people will get back to a predominantly in person office routine, with a day or two of permitted WFM, there is likely to be a transient period which will witness a hybrid format. Hybrid format does not simply mean more freedom around where we do the work, it also means more freedom on when we do the work. This is to enable work to fit in better with other requirements of life. This phase is likely not to last too long though.
6. Cubicles and Partitions are likely to make a comeback
The open office layout is a controversial approach to design office spaces, which has been universally acknowledged as hampering productivity, but in still in vogue in modern workplaces. The idea is to casual and creative environment
7. More surveillance
Surveillance will increase as occupancy monitoring will happen through tech enabled infrastructure. No tolerance policy for any kind of colds or flus may come into action – unless you are totally healthy you need to stay home. Facial recognition and thermal imaging software will come into play – initially to assess crowding or any signs of illness, but this is again a slippery slope for companies once the technology is widely accepted in workplaces. Imagine if your company could actually assess how many hours you actually work, or whether you are interacting enough with your co-workers, or if your general temperament is a good fit for your company.
8. Good health will be an advantage
Being healthy will be a big advantage in the modern workplace which is like to forbid people from coming to work if they are suffering from any kind of ailment. While in the past employees would be forced to attend office even if they had the flu, now they will not be able to come unless they get the appropriate certification from a doctor. This will slowly morph into a discrimination against people who are more prone to the occasional cold. The tax on the “unhealthy” will be huge in a modern workplace that frowns against any kind of illness.