Swings and roundabouts: how will we work tomorrow?

While a significant number of managers may think we will forget Covid working in time, the future arc is towards a greater influence of technology on all aspects of how we work.

Developing programming and coding technologies working in a software engineers developing applications together in office.

 

Is hybrid working here to stay or not? Survey after survey shows that employees want it, but are managers as sure about it? A survey from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development last week seemed to suggest most recognised that it was something their employees wanted, which is fine for now, but a large proportion thought it might fade out in the long term. More than two in five (42%) senior decision makers said they felt the memory of the pandemic would fade quickly and we would revert to the way we worked before Covid-19.

Why is that? Is it because many are finding it challenging to get the balance right – and it is a challenge? Is it because it takes more than a massive worldwide event to change decades of entrenched patterns of working? Is it because even with that major disruption change still takes time and social change takes much more time than all the technological stuff which is going at a rate of knots?

The same CIPD had a Festival of Work recently which included a keynote speech by Dr Ayesha Khanna, Co-Founder and CEO of Addo, an artificial intelligence (AI) solutions firm. She suggested that immersive working – immersive living even – is the way of the future. The office of the future is in the metaverse. This is quite comforting in a way for parents whose children spend all their spare time in the metaverse. Maybe they are actually learning something that is useful for their future rather than wasting their time. Maybe they can explain it all to us in due course.

It seems that technology is going to accelerate post-Covid – there will be all sorts of apps and tools and what not that will aim to help us with hybrid working – such as equipment to make it almost the same to be in a meeting in person as at home. Some companies are already installing this kind of thing and last week it was reported that KPMG has set up a collaborative hub for its US and Canadian units in the metaverse. The hub will allow the firm’s employees, clients and communities to connect, engage and explore opportunities for growth across industries and sectors, according to the firm. “The metaverse is a market opportunity, a way to re-engage talent and a path to connect people across the globe through a new collaborative experience,” Laura Newinski, deputy chair and chief operating officer at KPMG in the US, said.

Even certain jobs that are considered frontline and customer facing will become possible online. Who would have thought a few years ago that you could have online appointments with doctors, for instance? There will still be a lot of jobs that can’t be done or can’t be done as well online, but that number is reducing all the time. Things are changing beneath our feet and the implications for every sector are huge.

Maybe we will have a revival of office working, similar to the vinyl revival now. Maybe people will look back fondly on the time they spent commuting. And yes, of course, there are good things about being with other people and God knows we have missed people in the last couple of years. But when the novelty of going to the office again wears off, will there be another swing towards questioning whether we need to be there all day quite so often? Who knows? What is certain at the moment is that things can change very quickly. Nothing is stable. What Covid has done is call into question whether that whole five days in the office thing is necessary and once the questions begin and the answers don’t hold water things must surely shift – and with that come further questions about how we do work generally.



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