The pandemic really gave us a taste of what the future of office work could look like.
Whilst many of us are now reluctant to return to the office, in person, 100% of the time, we equally don’t want the isolation that working from home can bring. So how can these two seemingly contradictory expectations be reconciled? By inventing a new kind of workplace that’s hybrid and nomadic. Welcome to Episode 3 of the ETX Studio “After Calendar” of incoming trends for 2021.
[Hero and Featured Image Credit: Stil/Unsplash]
“I don’t miss offices at all,” says 22-year-old Juliette, who had initially gone on vacation just before France entered its October lockdown. Since then, she has extended her stay to work remotely from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. So what about when she comes back? “I’m going to split my time between working from home and going in.” As for Greg, he’s following classes online from the comfort of a sun lounger on a Bali beach. “Thanks to the pandemic, I can follow classes remotely. It’s a unique opportunity because never again will the university allow being on a beach while following finance classes,” explains the 24-year-old. The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted a great capacity for remote working, thanks to digital tools, and has generalized a kind of digital nomad lifestyle that was previously the reserve of certain freelancers. In 2021, the organizational models of companies will change to reflect this, blending work as we knew it in the pre-covid world with the reality of work in the current context — shaping a new workplace for the post-covid age. Workers will only partly return to offices, they will have several places where they do their work, and office usage will change.
Forbes considers that the workplace will switch to hybrid mode. Workers will split their time between the office, home and other places, such as cafés or other so-called “third places,” analyzes the American media, Fast Company. In the US, almost 42% of workers are working from home full time, according to research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. And, according to the same study, widespread home working will drop to two days a week after the pandemic, bringing about hybridization of the working world.
In France, during the country’s second lockdown, announced October 29, 70% of workers shared their time between the office and their home, according to a survey from the French labour ministry, published in November 2020. This can be explained by the less stringent restrictions during lockdown#2, as well as bad memories from the country’s first lockdown, during which full-time home working proved challenging for some. Most of those working from home felt isolated when working remotely 100% of the time, the labour ministry reports. Alternating between home and office offered a way of changing the working environment while reducing feelings of isolation.
A new work ecosystem: office, home, third places
This hybridization of work is already shaking up the commercial real estate market, which can be particularly costly in desirable urban centres. Many firms are planning on reducing office space, or at least, optimizing occupancy by establishing new processes. In a December 14, 2020 article, The New York Times outlined some of the avenues being explored for the future roles and objectives of these spaces. One example was the reorganization underway at tech giant Google: “[Google] plans to offer options to employees like booking collaboration places for up to a dozen people and securing outdoor spaces for larger gatherings. For employees in need of a quiet space outside the home, Google will offer reservable desks at its offices,” the American newspaper explains. These spaces would become places of collaboration, principally used for projects requiring physical presence or the kind of spontaneous, quickfire discussion that can be hindered by video calls.
For the American real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, cafés, coworking spaces and third places will form an integral part of the new work ecosystem, offering a welcome variety that supports “flexibility, functionality and employee well-being.” It is also these third places that will make the ecosystem into something genuinely hybrid. In fact, third places can take the form of shared spaces, coworking setups, workshops or fab labs, in which meeting rooms, grocery stores and even cafés can help foster interaction and encounters between a vast spectrum of workers. According to Aurore Dandoy, university lecturer and researcher in management science on digitalization through new work practices and new forms of organization, the third-place has a real role to play in rural settings: “A farmer who has to do their accounting, for example, will be able to come to find help in a third place, with someone who can offer advice,” she explains. And the third-place won’t be limited just to entrepreneurial matters and “synergies” between different professions. It will, for example, also have an ecological role to play, allowing some workers to travel less frequently to offices in major urban centres.
Different remote work cultures
However, Aurore Dandoy cautions: “what I mainly reproach, is that we tend to forget that the majority of people don’t work on a computer. This model won’t be applicable to everyone.” Because even if the pandemic has profoundly changed the habits of France’s employees when it comes to remote working, there are still major disparities. For France’s first lockdown in March 2020, in the Île-de-France region of Paris and its surrounding areas, 41% of employees were working remotely, while further north in the more rural Normandy region, just 11% were home working, according to an Odoxa survey for Adviso Partners, Challenges and Radio France. Going further into the past, it appears that remote working was already much more commonplace in the US, where levels of people routinely working from home reached over 30% of the working population. In Europe, and specifically in France, just 8 to 15% of employees worked from home. Such cultural differences will no doubt come into play as workplaces evolve into hybrid models in the coming months.
The “After Calendar”
2020 was an extraordinary year, a year that gave rise to a new, resilient and different world. From fashion and beauty to consumer trends, work and transportation, everything is shifting, everything is changing. Among those changes, Daily Up is focusing on 20 key trends as part of its ‘After Calendar’ of ways to live ‘better, differently and with less’ in 2021.
This article is published via AFP Relaxnews.