Workplaceless-ness or something like that: The Month That Was


When Einstein gave us the theory of relativity, he considered space and time as two linked parts of a continuous fabric. This, by itself, was a major deviation from the Newton's universe that defines space as a fixed entity and time always passing at the same rate, and which is absolute as well. However, the emergence of quantum mechanics postulated ‘spacetime’ as a continuous spectrum with a particle maintaining simultaneous quantum states until measured, at which point it adopts ‘one’ of the states. In layman terms, you and I exist at various ages, in various stages across the entire spacetime continuum as I write this. It is my ability to ‘observe’ (called the Observer Effect) myself as a 35-year old with my characteristics, my emotions, my behavior patterns etc. in ‘my current state’ that makes me appear as I am to you.

Wait, wait! You have not come to the wrong place. Nor is this article about physics. Far from it. But it’s my deep fascination with the work of Stephen Hawking, Dr. Joe Dispenza and the likes who are bridging the gap between science and spirituality through the quantum realm that I thought would make for the perfect background to the state of our workplace (or the lack of?!) today.

Transitioning to Workplaceless-ness

As the global work-from-home experiment enters its next leg, successfully overcoming the teething troubles of the “digital push” brought about by COVID-19, both employers and employees have now adopted to the new normal. Some organizations, like Twitter and Atlassian, have told its employees they can continue to work from home permanently. Other big tech firms like Google and Facebook have said they will operate at around 30% of office capacity, with most workers allowed to work from home through 2020.

One way or the other, the workplace as-we-know-it is undergoing a massive shift.

A survey in May earlier this year showed that 55% of US workers want a mixture of home and office working. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic. In China, employment expert Alicia Tung has predicted that in 10 years’ time, there will be a 60/40 split of onsite/remote work. (source: article on BBC)

Closer home, in India, an average 13-14% workforce may permanently work from home post the pandemic and that may impact demand for office spaces. (source: article on Economic Times)

From a macro lens, the office will still be a part of our working lives, we will just spend less time physically in it, making ‘Phygital’ (Phygital is the concept of using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world with the purpose of providing a unique interactive experiences for the user) the default modus operandi for companies across geographies and industries.

Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor with expertise in remote work, believes that once the pandemic subsides, working from home two days a week will be optimal for balancing collaborative and quiet work, while benefitting from the reduced stress of less commuting. He suggests companies that want to retain their own space consider moving from tall buildings to spread-out industrial parks or campuses to facilitate social distancing.

Hybrid ‘Everything’ for the Hybrid Workplace

“I need a break”, I say aloud to no one in particular.

My hubby turned co-worker (since the Mr. and Mrs. now work remotely from home) preaches in an almost rehearsed fashion, “So get off your laptop and take a stroll on the porch”.

“Break from ‘you guys’, I mean”. I allow my tone to express my discontent only to be met by question-riddled faces of the two and a half men pair that I co-habit, co-work and co-learn (online schooling has put the onus of ‘teaching’ on the parents too!) with.

As hybrid workplaces take wing, it will necessitate companies to revisit and revise their learning & development (L&D), culture, IT and Infraagenda from a digital point of view that fits the overarching vision of the company.

This is starkly different to the ‘virtual delivery’ model (below is McKinsey’s version) adopted by and large by every organization during COVID-19.

Learning & collaboration technologies for virtual delivery
  • Company Culture: However, the key to getting the hybrid model right is not a technical or an operational challenge, it’s a cultural challenge so workers who spend more of their time at home don’t become isolated and still fit in. While a ‘caring culture’ means many things to many people, at its heart, it’s having an employee-centric approach in planning and executing.
Caring Culture statistics
  • IT: Among other things, hybrid workers need collaboration and communication to be effective no matter when or where they’re performing their tasks. This calls for software systems enable easy exchange of ideas, plus monitoring, automation and other tools that facilitate management and productivity.

All that’s hybrid is not gold

While the case for hybrid is solid and grows stronger by the day, considering hybrid as the be-all-end-all for all workplaces and all scenarios may not be beneficial for the employees or the employer. Take hybrid with the ‘proverbial’ pinch of salt, if you will, but when you do embrace ‘workplaceless’ as the new-er normal welcome it with open arms, a learning mindset and a hopeful heart. On the other side, you will be sure to encounter happ-ier and more productive employees.

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light, easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.

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