The Future of WFH – All You Need to Know

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11 Jan 2022
8 min read

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ThinkWithNiche talks about the future of Work-From-Home scenarios around the world in various avenues of business with the emergence of new protocols and concerns. #ThinkWithNiche

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After two full years of working from home, there is a growing gap between employees who are reluctant to return to their jobs and executives who insist on returning them. It exacerbates the challenges companies face in attracting and retaining people. Many employers have realized that, in the future, their ability to fill white-collar jobs may depend on how flexible they are to offer work from home. However, many other companies have brought in telecommuting, creating policies to work from home one or two days a week or as an exception for some employees. On the other hand, adopting teleworking policies can save companies money by eliminating the need for expensive office space (or back offices) while giving workers the freedom to create their schedules and work wherever they want. These industries will return to the office faster, and workers in other jobs are less likely to do their jobs remotely, thanks to a work culture that prioritizes face-to-face interaction, whether needed or not. Some companies are already planning to move to flexible workplaces after successful telecommuting experiences during the pandemic, which will reduce overall space requirements and employ fewer office workers each day. Companies predict that about a quarter of all working time in the post-like world will be done from home - about half what workers want. Survey respondents assume they would like to work from home almost 50 percent of the time, compared with 5 percent before the pandemic and the rest of the time in the office.

The evidence is mixed, but many employees say they are more productive working from home than in the office. Last fall, 94% of employees surveyed in a study reported that teleworking is okay or even better than office work, perhaps because it lacks the distractions, annoyances, and mild insults that accompany colleagues and managers. Employees are happier because they don't have to commute and can be judged primarily by their actual work, not by the “office culture” based on HR leadership or HR leadership snippets that your boss chooses to ignore. Research shows that combining work from home and office may be the best way to increase productivity. This allows you to more effectively divide work between “deep work” (one that requires a lot of concentration, which is best done at home) and teamwork (best done with colleagues, in person, in the office). Setting aside a few days for personal drinks or days away from home also helps maintain corporate culture. Employers who offer workers a mix of telecommuting and personal work will be able to maintain their culture and perform the required office tasks while offering workers the flexibility they want. For most companies, working outside the office will require rethinking many processes and policies.

At some point, it may even be necessary to create a new director of teleworking to oversee production and collaboration and ensure operational efficiency. So one would think that many managers hope that if employees return to the office, management becomes easier, their work as managers become more visible, the work they do becomes more tangible and easier to evaluate. After all, in the office or on the Internet, employees don't want to feel like they'll be the last to know. A survey conducted in April 2021 shows that 99% of HR executives expect employees to work in some kind of hybrid system in the future. For example, the Dropbox file hosting service went into permanent shift during the pandemic, allowing employees to work from home and hold group meetings in the office. But the Covid-19 forced telecommuting experiment has resulted in some of these organizations strategically moving to telecommute, with less than 50% of employees in physical offices.

This is four to five times more teleworking than before the pandemic and could lead to a major shift in the geography of work as people and businesses move from big cities to suburbs and small towns. Looking only at remote work that can be done without losing productivity, we find that about 20-25% of the workforce in advanced economies can work from home three to five days a week. Structure and openness are promoted through office work, which may improve trust between management and employees. Creating an organizational culture is a natural process. Casual office chats, such as a worker wandering down the hall for an impromptu talk with a coworker, can lead to information exchange and collaborative issue solving. That's difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment since online meetings are frequently scheduled in advance - though it's still possible with adequate planning and communication. Hybrid work does confront many of the same challenges as face-to-face work. Poor planning and communication, unproductive or needless meetings, and misunderstandings regarding task duties occur both in-person and remotely. Technology and security concerns are perhaps the most significant issue when working from home. Home networks are often more vulnerable than workplace networks because they are an easier target for cyber threats. Remote employees are also more prone to share computers with people outside their company. Hybrid firms must make an initial investment to work through these difficult and often costly difficulties. Managers are unable to see the work that is being done with hybrid work. That implies, rather than focusing on employee behavior, they must measure employee success based on outcomes with clear performance indicators.

The future of teleworking will require many changes, including investments in digital infrastructure and freeing up office space. However, the future of office work is likely to be more like a hybrid model, somewhere in the middle between completely remote and completely in the office.

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