In blog post in early May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai shared the company’s vision for the future in the workplace – more than a year after the covid-19 pandemic forced offices around the world to close overnight and employees suddenly switched to telecommuting using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and a host of other virtual collaboration tools.
“The future of work is flexibility,” he said, adding that Google “has reimbursed the hybrid workplace to help us collaborate effectively in many work environments.” This includes testing multi-purpose workspaces and developing advanced video technology that “creates greater equality between office employees and those who virtually join,” he explained.
Google is by no means alone in its efforts to track the unprecedented evolution of the office after the pandemic. Citigroup recently announced that most workers will be appointed hybrids, who work at least three days a week in the office. Ford said 30,000 of its North American office workers will be able to work under the flexible hybrid model. Almost every organization in every industry tries to determine how to move around and respond to changing employee expectations and feelings about how and where they work.
For example, EY 2021. Reimagined Employee Survey found that nine out of ten employees want continued work flexibility, while more than half of employees worldwide would consider leaving work if flexibility is not ensured after a pandemic.
In addition, employees’ expectations of flexibility in work do not necessarily coincide with the expectations of their management. According to the recent report conducted by market research company Ipsos and premium audio brand EMAIL, 53% of decision makers think that most employees will spend more time in the physical workplace over the next year, rather than remotely, while only 26% of employees think the same.
Employees also demand more and better technology to promote increasingly flexible ways of working and more sophisticated opportunities for collaboration in and out of the field. Ipsos / EPOS study, for example, found that 89% of all end users currently face challenges when holding virtual meetings or workshops. Research has shown that about 63% of global end users regularly have problems during business conversations due to poor sound quality. The most common problems include background noise (32%), line interference (26%) and asking for information to be repeated (23%).
The transition to teleworking emphasized the need for flexibility, agility and flexibility not only in the way companies operate, but also in the way their employees work. The current shift from a completely remote environment to hybrid capabilities is a similar disruptive moment that requires technological innovation to equalize the work environment for everyone – those working from home or from another remote location, as well as those physically in the office.
“The onset of the covid-19 pandemic was like a time machine that suddenly propelled us decades into the future,” said Paul Silverglate, vice president and head of the U.S. technology sector at Deloitte, talking about how networks, services and devices have come together to effectively support the transition to work and home schooling. “The core technology for these new behaviors has been truly tested and, for the most part, kept under increased connectivity requirements. As we have adapted, we have reached the limits of what our current technology can provide. “
Investing in innovative technology is crucial to employee experience
As organizations emerge from the pandemic, more than two-thirds (68%) of CEOs plan to invest heavily in data and technology, while 61% plan to take a new transformation initiative, according to Imperative EY survey for 2021. The question is, how can companies invest in innovative technology to improve the employee experience in the hybrid workplace? Finally, it becomes crystal clear that the traditional conference room with table, chairs and speakerphone will no longer cut as people return to a new, hybrid workplace.
Firms like EY have invested heavily, including a conference room that offers an impressive meeting experience with life-size touch screens and integrated cameras and speakers. 360-degree cameras, microphones and speakers will be increasingly installed at gathering places, and the number of screens will be increased, turning the conference room into a “Zoom room”, according to Meena Krenek, director of interior design at Perkins + Will, an architectural firm that redesigns offices, including its own, for new ways of working.
And Google is creating a new meeting room called Campfire, where personal attendees sit in a circle interspersed with large screens depicting the faces of people dialing via video conferencing, so that virtual attendees are on the same feet as those physically present.
These moves reflect consensus Bars / EPIC study, which found that workers and leaders continue to see the benefits of holding meetings. About 79% of end users recognize the benefits of video for virtual meetings, an increase of 7% over 2020. With time and cost savings compared to face-to-face meetings, 21% of decision makers say video meetings help them feel closer to his team, and 17% believe this establishes trust in working relationships.
Whatever the future of the workplace looks like, it should be aligned with the company’s culture, as well as its efforts to recruit and retain top talent.
For example, many financial companies felt that personal collaboration was too important to get lost, so they asked people to enter the office early when the economy reopened. In Silicon Valley, on the other hand, some companies are leaving their headquarters and becoming completely remote organizations.
Most companies, however, have a hybrid approach: Accenture’s 2021 Future of Work a survey of 9,000 workers worldwide found that the vast majority of employees (83%) say a hybrid model would be optimal for a productive and healthy workforce.
“Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity more broadly – including collaboration, learning and well-being to encourage career advancement for every worker,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in recent report. “All of this needs to be done flexibly when, where and how people work.”
This content was produced by EPOS. It was not written by the editorial staff of the MIT Technology Review.