The Future of Work Two and a Half Years After COVID-19

Kelcy Ballantyne

It has been two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the conversation around hybrid work continues. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Tesla’s return-to-office policies have caused plenty of contention with a consensus that employee preference is to remain working remotely…even at the risk of dismissal.

A recent article written by Chief Scientist at Microsoft, Jaime Teevan uses data to understand how the pandemic has changed the way we work but also ask the question, “Does the research tell us that remote work is in fact bad, and that we should all go back to the office?”.

The case for returning to the office 

The debate around collaboration remains an important argument in the case of returning to the office. Impromptu brainstorming sessions and coffee machine chats often bring many moments of opportune collaboration. Other factors touted include lack of connection between employees and their teams, with interactions between colleagues being highly scheduled or ‘cherry picked’.

Research carried out by Lucidspark highlighted the top 3 responses linked to remote work dissatisfaction:

Source: Lucidspark

The case for adopting a hybrid working model

Lately, a societal shift we are seeing is the emergence of how important it is to strike a balance between life outside of work and our careers. A lack of flexibility can often lead to poor employee engagement with workers now turning down jobs that don’t offer flexible scheduling.

A recent IT Partners poll highlights how 55% of participants chose work-life balance as the most enjoyable aspect of hybrid work:

After two full years, the data tell us that workforces remained just as productive, and employees were more satisfied while working remotely. Hybrid working is mutually beneficial to both employees and businesses as it drives a more motivated workforce, job satisfaction increases retention, and happier employees are more likely to recommend their employer to others.

The Findings from Microsoft’s Research

Remote work caused fewer scheduled meetings, more asynchronous collaboration:

“Our findings show that firm wide remote work actually caused a 5% decrease in total meeting time”.

Collaboration shifted from weak ties to strong ties:

“Firm-wide remote work increased intra-group connections (also called strong ties), the share of time with cross-group connections (weak ties) dropped by about 25%”

Remote work made the workday span longer:

“We found that remote work increased the length of the workday by 10%. This doesn’t necessarily mean the total number of hours worked increased, just that the start and end time of the workday changed. It could be that as people embrace more flexible work schedules, they are weaving non-work activity into their workday.”

So, what will the way we work look like over the next decade? The pandemic gave us the ‘shove’ we needed to adopt a more flexible working model. But businesses and individuals alike need to define how they’d like to work together in an ever-growing mobile workforce. Click here to read about how IT Partners is leading the way with our approach to hybrid working.