Excitement Around Remote Work Is Fading: Is Technology To Blame?
The past year has been a whirlwind. Whether we wanted to or not, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed many of us into working from home. Employee safety remained top of mind, and with less people in the office, we were all left to wonder: How long will this last, and what will “stick” as a result?
The technology was (and still is) there to keep us working. Connectivity, cloud and collaboration software tools helped us transition overnight to working from home. The realization that people could work wherever, whenever and however they wanted was tempting. After all, who wouldn’t want to skip those grinding commutes, have more time to spend with family and friends and work every day in their favorite pair of sweatpants? It all seemed so ideal. Thus, productivity appeared to increase and the Zoom work culture was born.
The truth is that for those unaccustomed to a remote work culture, it’s easy to overlook the drawbacks as you reap the initial benefits. Most people aren’t working remotely from Bali or improving their work-life balance. Instead, they’re in makeshift offices in their living rooms or kitchens. They’re babysitting their children while they work, or sharing space with their partners. They’re working longer hours for less pay. They’re burnt out, stressed and unable to disconnect. The physical and mental toll is becoming more detrimental as time goes on.
Full transparency: I run a technology company that sells to office landlords. Many of the clients we provide for can’t wait to get back into the office. I wholeheartedly agree with them. Yes, our team uses Slack and Trello, among others. Yes, all of them are excellent management tools, helping us connect quickly, stay on task and work flexibly.
However, not even the best technologies can replicate the in-person interactions you have in the office. This is especially true if the first time your company attempted remote work was this past year. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that remote-only models exacerbate the worst of the workplace. Technology can still make a real change, but it should be an enabler — not a replacement — for the modern office.
The remote work ‘dream’ isn’t always realistic.
A positive outcome of the pandemic has been how companies are reimagining their offices through technology adoption in commercial real estate (CRE). Owners and property teams are finally taking pointers from the retail and hospitality industries by assuming a more modern, customer-focused approach to the workplace. Though beneficial in many ways, this has also come with a slew of additional issues.
Instead of leveraging technology to complement the physical office with more flexible workplace policies, we’ve begun to idealize remote work as the ultimate solution. At first glance, it makes sense. Being able to work remotely is the ultimate manifestation of flexibility — right?