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The Future of Office Work: WFH or Return to the Office?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, working from home has become a necessity for many knowledge workers. The shift towards remote work has been so significant that early research suggests that half of pre-COVID Americans now work from home, compared to just 5-15% before the pandemic. However, as government workers in the US start heading back to the office, growing outbreaks may mean that many offices remain closed. Similarly, restrictions are still in place in office buildings across Europe.

The Benefits and Perils of Remote Work

The pandemic has turbocharged the trend towards remote work, and both the benefits and the perils are becoming clearer. While research shows remote work benefits productivity, the shift towards remote work has also forced us to acknowledge and reject dangerous norms such as the “ideal worker” fallacy, which disproportionately affects parents and women. Furthermore, the shift towards remote work also has implications for the “gigification” of knowledge work, the experiences of Black employees, career growth, and negotiation.

The Future of Office Spaces

Businessthink (BT) has covered office spaces for years, from the perspective of how they shape productivity, collaboration, and the environment. BT has learned how to create safer spaces for employees in the future, what steps employers should follow when planning for re-entry, how to help employees mentally prepare for their return, and how to have a conversation with their boss if they want to make WFH a more permanent reality.

Decision-Making for Employers

As companies move past the initial stages of COVID-19 WFH lives, leaders must decide how long employees will work from home, whether a “hybrid” or rotational working environment is effective, and whether or not their (largely empty) office space is best serving their needs. It is crucial to carefully consider how these decisions will impact employee productivity, job satisfaction, and overall well-being.

Lessons Learned from Remote Work

The pandemic has given us a chance to experiment with remote work and learn how to make it work better for everyone. BT has helped in this learning process by providing insights into the benefits and challenges of remote work and how it can be managed effectively. As we move forward, we can use these lessons to make more informed decisions about the future of office work.

Creative Conversations about the Future of the Office

By covering everything from early research on how people are adapting to WFH life to more existential questions about what an office is truly for and what people may lose if these spaces go away, BT hopes to continue contributing to ongoing and creative conversations about the future of the office. It is essential to think outside the box and explore new ways of working that can accommodate different work styles, needs, and preferences while still maintaining productivity and collaboration.