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Title: Are You Sure You Want to Go Back to the Office?
Why:コロナによってもたらされたRemote work は仕事のやり方に根本的な変化をもたちらす
Are You Sure You Want to Go Back to the Office?
The future of work is flexibility.
By Anne Helen Petersen
There’s a common refrain among people who’ve been 🟢marooned in their homes this year, trying to manage their jobs and their children’s distance learning, always fighting the losing battle against the dishes, the laundry, the dog hair, the grocery list. “I cannot wait to get back to the office,” they say.
But people don’t really want to get back to the office. They want to get out of their apartments, their houses, their parents’ houses. They want their children back in school, and also out of the house. They want to see people’s faces again, and have conversations with people who are closer than six feet from them. But that doesn’t mean that they actually want to be back in the office — at least not the way the office was before.
Many companies are preparing to bring employees back in the spring or summer, depending on how fast the vaccines roll out. Picture it: At first, the office will feel like the first day of school, senior year — everything’s familiar, and all your old comforts are there, and everyone’s thrilled to have the sort of proximity we’ve actively avoided for months.
But the old annoyances will arrive right on schedule. The commute will still be long; there will still be too many meetings and time-sucks; it’ll still feel like a mad rush to get out the door in the morning or get dinner on the table at night. The question will present itself: Why, again, do we insist on traveling to an office every day?
When I talked to dozens of analysts, H.R. experts, architects, consultants, real estate agents and office furniture designers, the consensus was clear: The future of office work is flexibility.
At one end of that flexibility spectrum, there will be fully “distributed” companies like the software maker GitLab, with no headquarters and employees scattered across the world. At the other, there’ll be more old-fashioned organizations that demand face time in the office, but whose belief in the infeasibility of remote work has been permanently undercut.
And then there’s the vast, corporate in between. Headquarters aren’t going away, but more companies will embrace the hub-and-spoke model: smaller footprints in big, expensive cities, and smaller offices in places where employees want to (and can afford to) live.
People will be leaving their homes, having conversations, working with others — which is what they actually miss when they say they miss the office. They’ll just be doing it more on their terms than ever before.
Remote work will have to be viewed as equally important as in-person work. In practice, that means rethinking what remote working actually looks like — that is, very little like what we’re doing now. We’re not just working from home, after all.
“I think the future is actually having to manage people,” said Adam Segal, the chief executive of Cove, which helps companies organize shared desk and conference space. “The default setting right now is that you just see people in the office, and that’s how you manage them. But now people actually have to learn how to communicate about the work that you’re doing, about productivity, about expectations.”
For employees’ relationship to work to meaningfully change, companies need to start thinking about it now. What has previously been subtext will have to become text. If your department all comes in on Thursdays, what do you do with that valuable, weekly time? Which meetings are essential, which could be silent, or a simple progress update?
If you take the train into the city only once a week, that day becomes useful: a time specifically for collaboration and ideas, instead of just another day spent endlessly toggling between emails and meetings, doing everything and getting nothing done. Instead of resenting your exhausting slog into the city, it might start to feel actually productive.
All of these companies catering to the highly skilled work force told me the same thing: Post-Covid flexibility is going to make the office even better. Workers are going to have a higher quality of life, more time with their kids, more connection to their communities. They’ll be able to live where they want to live, stop paying exorbitant rent. They might even figure out how to work less, simply by being able to concentrate more. This is the wild, blissful, utopian flexible future.
For the rich, and for the office worker whose skills are in demand, the Covid-19 recession has been over for months. With that sort of economic stability brings the ability to innovate and think about what “flexible” could mean moving forward — including, hopefully, new ways of thinking about the centrality of work in our lives. When you’re not compelled to be in the office from 9 to 5, “flexibility means you actually schedule your day around your life,” as Mr. Segel put it, “instead of around your work.”
If the future of work is flexibility, our challenge now is to make sure that future doesn’t just worsen the ever-widening divide in American society between those promised a new vision of the good, balanced life, and those for whom “flexibility” means 🟢effacing your wants and needs and dreams, once again, to the fickle demands of your employer.