By John Filitz, Trace3, Senior Research Analyst
The 2020 operating environment has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been reports declaring the advent of a fully remote working world. Some pundits have even made bold proclamations of death for the office.[i] This has been followed by some of the leading employers in Silicon Valley declaring permanence to a fully remote operating model. [ii] For most enterprises however, the certainty of remote work versus the office is not an either or. What is starting to emerge is the adoption of a hybrid workspace operating model.
In our Future of Work research report we have identified three phases of hybrid workspace operating model maturity. The first survival phase identifies optimal remote help desk support as key to facilitating a productive remote working experience. In the second adaptation phase, the focus is on guaranteeing a safe in-office employee experience. In the final, optimization phase, we identify providing a high-quality collaboration platform experience as fundamental to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the hybrid workspace model.
Remote Work Goes Mainstream
Although remote working adoption was a steadily increasing prior to the pandemic, no one could have anticipated the dramatic shift to a fully remote world, overnight.[iii]
At the peak of the pandemic lockdown in the US, 62% of Americans worked from home.[iv] This despite only 45% of US workers according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, having ability to work from home.[v]
Some of the challenges impeding workers from remote work include suboptimal Internet connectivity and job unsuitability. By June 2020, the numbers of remote workers had dropped to 42%, largely in line with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures on remote work.[vi]
Assumptions and Challenges
Notions that remote workers are not as productive as office bound workers have largely been dispelled during the pandemic. Research has indicated remote working has a net overall positive effect on the productivity of knowledge economy workers, with remote workers working an average of 1.4 more days per month than their office bound counterparts.[vii]
Remote working however comes with downsides too, with a greater share of remote workers struggling to achieve optimal work-life balance.[viii] This is due a myriad of reasons including the suitability of the job for remote work, the level of remote employee support, as well as technical considerations such as Internet connectivity quality.
Due to concerns over the long-term sustainability of remote working, the utility of a hybrid workspace model is starting to take hold, where workers have the option of working from home or utilizing office space once it is safe to do so.
Managing the pandemic-induced crisis has also underscored the importance of introducing emerging IT technologies to address workspace challenges that are not being solved for.
Below we provide more insight into these phases.
Three Phases of the Hybrid Workspace Operating Model
In the first survival phase, enterprises had to deal with the immediate challenges of addressing en masse remote work. In this phase we have identified exciting emerging technologies that eliminate a high-friction employee helpdesk experience, including the use of bots, virtual assistants and AI call center assisted solutions.
As enterprises move into the adaptation phase of dealing with the reintroduction of staff into offices, emerging technologies that optimize the safe and efficient return of employees into the office will be essential going forward. These include solutions enabling touchless entry, workplace management solutions to facilitate focused sanitization of highly trafficked spaces, to COVID-19 tested air purification systems.
The final optimization phase addresses collaboration technology usage efficacy. Here leveraging synchronous and asynchronous video and voice communication, as well as text collaboration technologies, will be key to ensuring a productive and sustainable hybrid workspace operating model.
The pandemic has laid bare the importance of ICT technologies and cloud native digital transformation more specifically. The importance of introducing emerging technology solutions in the enterprise that facilitate a smooth and efficient remote and hybrid working experience have also been underscored. With the adoption of a hybrid workspace model, a new level of enterprise risk appetite for emerging technologies that address workspace related challenges is needed.
Click here for the Trace3 Future of Work Research Report.
[i] Kayyem, J. (2020). Never Go Back to the Office. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/never-go-back-office/611830/
[ii] Hadden, J., Casado, L. Sonnemaker, T., and Borden, T. (2020). 17 major companies that have announced employees can work remotely long term. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/companies-asking-employees-to-work-from-home-due-to-coronavirus-2020
[iii] Hickman, A. and Robison, J. (2020). Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/283985/working-remotely-effective-gallup-research-says-yes.aspx
[iv] Hickman, A. and Saad, L. (2020). Reviewing Remote Work in the U.S. Under COVID-19. https://news.gallup.com/poll/311375/reviewing-remote-work-covid.aspx
[v] US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Ability to work from home: evidence from two surveys and implications for the labor market in the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/ability-to-work-from-home.htm
[vi] Wong. M. (2020). Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy. Stanford. https://news.stanford.edu/2020/06/29/snapshot-new-working-home-economy/
[vii] Airstaker. (2020). The Benefits of Working From Home. https://www.airtasker.com/blog/the-benefits-of-working-from-home/