Over the past 14 months, it has become clear that working in the future will involve a hybrid environment in which some employees work remotely while others work in the office. At Zoom, we are working hard to reimagine and support that vision by innovating and developing technologies that transform user experiences and bridge the gap between remote and in-office workers.
We are focused on making it inclusive, collaborative, equal, safe, and exciting so people will see that working in the office can have distinct benefits over working remotely for specific things, like ideation, new product creation, new service offerings, and the like.
Prior to the pandemic, many organizations held strong beliefs about the nature of work. Some believed that employees were most productive when they were physically together, within the confines of the office. Because of this, many organizations defaulted to hiring workers who were proximate to office locations. Hiring remote workers wasn’t a universal strategy.
Today, these ideals and others have been challenged and proven false. Organizations have discovered that people can work remotely – and that they are often more productive and happier than they were before. This includes all industries and all geographies – even financial services, where remote work was once deemed impossible, and professional services, where clients wanted the consultants in the offices with their employees. Said differently, everything has changed for every industry in every geography.
[ Want more advice for your remote work strategy? Read Hybrid work: 3 truths leaders can't ignore. ]
In embracing remote work, organizations have discovered the value of becoming geographically agnostic. In hiring, for example, organizations now have the freedom to pursue top talent from anywhere. These changes and more are poised to revolutionize the workplace as we know it, and who knows how the trajectory we are now on will further change and accelerate in the months and years ahead of us. We should no longer be thinking digital transformation; we need to think digital disruption!
Hybrid work and reinventing the office
As we think about the future, there are two broad topics that technology leaders need to distinguish between: how we work and the purpose of the office. Both are poised to change dramatically as organizations begin to adopt and employ hybrid work environments.
Moving forward, “work” is something we do – it’s no longer a place we visit. In the past, we have all said, “I’m going to work now.” This was not a true statement; what we were in fact doing was “going to the office,” and when there, we would work.
Today, “going to work” means sitting at your computer in another room of your home or any place you are visiting (as it really is WFA, Work From Anywhere) where you will complete your tasks. This being the case for many people globally beyond this pandemic, the question is: What is the purpose of the office?
Organizations everywhere are rethinking the purpose of the office: what the office should be used for, where it should be, and what its makeup should be from a layout perspective.
The answers to these questions will be very different than they were in the past because employee preferences have changed. They have now experienced different work environments, tools, and layouts, and they want these capabilities when they choose to work in an office.
Instead of being a place where people come every day to get work done, the office will be a place where people come together to ideate, work together interactively, brainstorm, and collaborate because those are done best in person. Then they can WFA to get their work done.
4 requirements for the hybrid work office of the future
Because the purpose of the office is evolving, there are several ways the physical space needs to evolve, too. The office of the future needs to be:
- Safe. As people return to work, most are concerned about the steps organizations are taking to make the workplace a safe environment. Factors like air temperature, humidity, and ventilation are important. People are careful about the surfaces they touch and their proximity to others, so how will organizations address those concerns? People want seamless and touchless experiences.
- Inclusive. We’ve learned that technology can bring people together. While Jane might be in the office in New York and Joe is in Paris, technology removes that physical barrier so both can connect for a meeting. Workers want frictionless experiences that are accessible from any device.
- Collaborative. Technologies like digital whiteboards will enable workers to collaborate with those outside the office. People want the ability to co-annotate and mark up content. These features are no longer optional; they’re mandatory.
- Exciting. In order to bring workers back to the office when we want them there, the workplace needs to be innovative and fun. Technologies will help to transform that.
The role of the CIO is more exciting now than ever before. Organizations know how critical a role technology plays, and we are the ones who know what is possible and what is not. If you are not already thinking about how you’re going to support the distributed workforce on an ongoing basis, you need to start now. We are on the brink of the biggest change in workforce and environment dynamics.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
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