For many reasons, the workplace is changing. It doesn’t matter what you do, there’s a strong chance that the rulebook has been ripped up a few times this new decade already, with new guidelines set down in a format that can just as easily be scrubbed away again. For most of us, the worst of all this upheaval is over – we’re working from home – but, with the possibilities created by the internet, it’s still unknown just how much the modern office could change even within the next calendar year.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Of course, the onus is on employers to make working remotely more convenient and effective for employees. However, as the office has always operated as a one-size-fits-all entity, the idea of collaborating with workers to help them become more productive might seem a little alien. The magazine website Fast Company notes that the workplace (and, more specifically, returning to the workplace) has only ever been suitable for a handful of people, namely, those who can’t self-motivate, those people who enjoy group work, and workers with difficult home lives.
Theoretically, this could mean that, for the first time ever, the office dynamic is upside-down, with introverts, isolationists, lone wolves, and the perennially quiet suddenly able to work as they’ve always wanted. It’s never quite that simple, obviously, but the opportunity to give everybody an ideal working environment is a golden one – even if that means splitting the workforce down the middle, and having some operate at home while others take over in the office.
Again, though, there are myriad problems with that idea, too, not least things like in-person workers getting the nod for promotions over remote ones, something that the BBC recently covered in an article. The old concept of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ seems to run right through office politics. In these scenarios, the idea of face-time, i.e. actually being able to look at people, becomes a commodity that imposes a lesser value on remote workers, even if their productivity hasn’t changed.
Dungeons & Dragons
The latter may not be something that can be overcome, though, other than via the concept of virtual reality meeting rooms – not so much Zoom or Skype but Dungeons & Dragons, where everybody can appear in the same room regardless of their location with devices such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. While the technology exists and actually seems ideal for group work, the high price point of getting started with virtual reality isn’t really suitable for the average office.
There’s an odd gulf between the fact that some industries have already adapted their platforms to be easily available online yet the workers who make it happen may be confined to very traditional ways of working.
Access to news, banks, government departments, and various forms of entertainment are often free of human interaction of any description, courtesy of the internet. However, some companies, such as casino outlets, have taken this one step further by introducing pay by phone casino sites. This type of business, used by PartyCasino and Betfred, among others, means that players don’t even need a physical location to engage with the product.
Unfortunately, for the more conservative managers and industries out there, at least, there are plenty of incidental benefits associated with remote work that are always going to make the possibility attractive for employees. Lower carbon footprints, less money spent on travelling and food, and a greater work/life balance are just a few of these. Employers aren’t being short-changed, though. Fewer overheads due to smaller premises and the reduced need to operate canteens and similar facilities are obvious perks of having a workforce that operates off-premises.
Employees have never been able to make their own workplace until recently, and this freedom is likely to result in workers insisting on different ways of doing their jobs without having to risk things like promotions and job security. While managers may view homeworking as encouraging laziness and even absenteeism, research done since the turn of the decade suggest that productively either climbs when workers aren’t on site or stays flat. It’s all a question of how well new policies are implemented and received.