Are Offices Obsolete?
Is anybody going back to the office?
Even once the pandemic subsides, employees expect, in some cases demand, to continue some form of remote working. As Benjamin Kessler, Managing Editor of INSEAD Knowledge, maintains:
“The centrifugal tide sweeping through corporate offices is unlikely to roll back anytime soon…a small but growing number of leading-edge start-ups are riding this tide all the way to its logical extreme: dispensing with physical co-location entirely. Digital platforms – Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. – have greatly reduced distance-based hindrances to collaboration. All-remote firms aim to exploit the new technology to the fullest, converting their HQ into a vast, virtual co-working space.”
But how do employers ensure workers are safe from offensive and bullying behavior when work interactions take place virtually?
In this post, we take a look at:
- The advantages of remote work arrangements for employers
- The advantages of remote work arrangement for employees
How to detect inappropriate communications that contribute to a toxic remote workplace
The Advantages of Remote Work Arrangements for Employers
Despite the technology that enables it, many companies have resisted remote working. The argument goes that in-person, face-to-face communication better facilitates teamwork and creativity. Casual hallway discussions can lead to innovative breakthroughs. And managers are better able to get a sense of how a team is coordinating on a project by actually seeing how team members are interacting.
A more cynical view is that companies have real estate investments that are going unused. And that less skilled managers don’t feel in control of their people if they can’t see them from out of their office cubicles.
Whatever the reasons for this resistance, even in high tech companies such as Apple and IBM, the pandemic broke the barriers wide open. Two years into working from home (WFH), companies are doing quite nicely, thank you, without everybody reporting to shared office space on a daily basis.
Notably, companies such as Google, Uber and Amazon have all postponed office return deadlines even as it seems the pandemic might be entering a more manageable phase. Apple, for example, even with its huge corporate headquarters space largely emptied, reconsidered its February 2022 return to office dictate, announcing an indefinite postponement, as well as offering a $1,000 reimbursement for corporate and employees to buy equipment to work from home.
The reason, according to RepublicWorld, has less to do with COVID-19 than a possible “brain drain of employees who do not wish a full time return to the office. According to a letter obtained by multiple news sources:
“Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.”
So perhaps the chief advantage for employers to offer WFH and/or hybrid working arrangements combining flexible in-office and WFH schedules is to retain talented employees who’ve come to prefer these arrangements.
Other key advantages include:
- Lower overhead costs (according to a Stanford study reported in WeWork, a company saved nearly $2,000 per employee in office space usage)
- Fewer sick days (since employees aren’t infecting one another)
- Improved sustainability (reduced environmental emissions by eliminating commuting)
- Increased productivity (according to a Forbes report, remote workers are 35 to 40 percent more productive than their office counterparts)
The Advantages of Remote Work Arrangements for Employees
WFH turned out to be the one silver lining of the pandemic for many workers. According to a World Economic Forum report, two-thirds of those surveyed stated a preference for flexible work arrangements even when the pandemic is over, and almost a third are prepared to quit if their current employer requires them to go back to work full time.
The reasons why employees increasingly prefer WFH or hybrid work arrangements include:
- Better work-life balance
- Greater flexibility to set work schedules
- Time and money savings (up to $4,000 a year by some estimates) from not having to commute
- No geographic limitations, ability to work from anywhere
- A more comfortable, customizable office space
- Increased productivity due to fewer interruptions from non-work related socializing, unnecessary meetings and office politics
- Less exposure to airborne illnesses in a confined office space
Detect Toxic Communications in a Remote Workplace
Of course, no work arrangement is entirely perfect. One is the increased potential for harassment and toxic behavior that often goes unreported in email and messaging communications essential to remote working. Indeed, just as employers face losing talent if they don’t offer WFH or hybrid work options, they may also lose talent due to toxic behavior taking place on employee email and messaging platforms that go unnoticed by HR and senior leadership.
Given the overwhelming preference among employees for remote working arrangements, how, then, can an organization effectively monitor employee email and messaging to flag and stop toxic behaviors, tone and sentiment?
CommSafe AI Safe Communications Software™ captures in real-time signs of harassment as well as inappropriate sentiment or tone in work email and messaging communications. Immediate intervention to stop toxic communications results in a safe space for employees. No matter where they are working.
It’s easy to use and the benefits are substantial. A review of this demo demonstrates how your organization can make its remote workplace a safe workplace..