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The Future of Work: Hybrid Workforces & Collaboration Hives

For many organizations, the ability to work remotely during the pandemic has been a necessity. The speed and efficiency of moving employees from an office to their homes in a matter of days surprised us all.

Recent research from Stanford University revealed that 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now works from home full-time—a group that accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Aside from wearing sweatpants to work, there are real benefits for employees: more flexible schedules, the ability to work from anywhere (even a coffee shop), no daily commutes, and more time with family. It comes as no surprise then that, if given a choice, 98 percent would like the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers, according to the World Economic Forum.

Organizations benefit, too—from increased employee productivity to a smaller real estate footprint to lower technology costs. These and other factors have led several high-profile organizations—like Nationwide Insurance, Shopify, Siemens, Slack, and Zillow—to offer their employees the opportunity to work remotely indefinitely.

But there are challenges:

  • Technology issues, including low bandwidth, inconsistent availability of the Internet, security, and more
  • Difficulty balancing work demands with family demands
  • Feeling connected to colleagues
  • Communication issues/keeping everyone on the same page
  • Video meeting fatigue

All of which leaves us to consider how this prolonged period of remote work will change how and where we work in the future.

How we work: Hybrid workforces

Many of my conversations with customers, partners, and colleagues center on how we’ll work going forward. A recent Gartner survey revealed that more than 80 percent of company leaders plan to allow remote work at least part time, even after it becomes safe to return to the office.

Remote work is definitely here to stay.

At Logicalis, we’ve seen an improvement in employee satisfaction levels during this time. Global teams have adjusted to the new reality of working from home and many employees are in no rush to return to the office.

Here in the U.S., we made plans a few months ago to reopen offices, then quickly ditched those plans in response to a rise in cases and employee concerns. We’ve now collectively decided to work remotely until at least the end of the calendar year.

We are embracing the flexible work model and its many advantages, including the ability to recruit a more diverse workforce with fewer geographical restrictions to hiring. As we continue to work remotely, we are adopting a more empathetic, people-first approach and increasing our efforts on team collaboration to ensure our employees stay connected.

Where we work:  Collaboration hives

What will the office environment look like beyond the pandemic? Despite most workers enjoying their newfound remote work flexibility, workplaces will not disappear for good. Nor should they. Because people are social animals with a need for interaction, the purpose of the workplace will change.

When we return, office spaces will reflect the desire for more meaningful connections by accentuating the collaborative aspects of the modern work world. They will become more of a hybrid collaboration hive with vast meeting spaces and socially distant workspaces—a place for individuals to work, groups to gather, and customers, vendors, and teams to meet. We will also see:

  • More open space – More than a few years ago, we broke down all cubicle walls to promote greater collaboration among and between teams. In the age of social distancing, we may well see those walls go back up, though in a much less dense way.
  • More signs – It’s hard to walk into a business these days and miss the many signs on doors, floors, and walls telling customers what to do and where to go. It occurred to me the other day that our workplaces will likely have many more signs when we return to them.
  • More technology – We’ve seen more technologies, particularly contactless technologies, in use in businesses—such as automatic soap dispensers, faucets, door openers, etc. There are also technologies to assess body temperatures and enforce social distancing. Many of these technologies will come into play in the modern workplace.

Facebook is taking the future further with augmented and virtual reality-powered computing platforms:

“We envision a dynamic virtual work environment anchored by genuine social presence. Next-generation devices would give people infinite workspaces with configurable virtual screens, whiteboards, and other visionary tools. You could work alone or collaborate in a persistent meeting room with remote coworkers like you were all sharing the same physical space, and with all of the nuance of in-person conversation.”

Clearly, the days of trekking to an office because “that’s where I work” are over. The new workplace will be expansive, vibrant, and full of activity driven by a renewed purpose—a “different normal.” And, as Architects of Change, Logicalis stands ready to support our customers with modern workplaces that enable their new ways of working.

Jon Groves is CEO of Logicalis U.S.