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COMMENT BEYOND20


Thefutureofwork is withustoday


EMBRACING HYBRID WAYS OF WORKING IS NOT JUST CONVENIENT, BUT SENSIBLE TOO


effort and expense of dragging themselves into work to spend the day working on a device that they have brought with them, and will return homewithat the end of the day? Research, including studies fromthe Office


for National Statistics and Princetown University, New Jersey, shows that commuting is one of the least enjoyable activities that peo- ple have to do on a regular basis. And why should companies go to the


expense of providing prestige office accommo- dation in city centres, when their people have been provenin recentmonths to be just as effec- tive and productive elsewhere – primarily at home, but also in offices ‘around the corner’? This is not just a rhetorical question. Being a


MARK DIXON


most convenient and productive, has been driven entirely by the Covid-19 pandemic. But that assumption would be wrong. The


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pandemic has certainly had a dramatic and per- manent effect, but it’s merely accelerated a trend that’s been underway for several years, as organisations progressively move to a ‘hybrid’ way of working: at home, a local office and occasionally at corporate HQ.


Tech-driven The real catalyst for this shift is the digital revo- lution, which started in the 1970s with the launch of the first personal computers. Today, digital technology puts into every white-collar worker’shands all the tools theyneed todotheir job. The shared workplace only ever existed because it contained the materials and equip- ment workers needed but didn’t have at home: typewriters, computers, photocopiers and filing cabinets to store countless kilometres of paper. Herding people to the office is looking obso-


lete, expensiveand inconvenient. The office isno longer a defined physical place, but rather it has become digital. In some cases, data saved in the cloud isn’t even in the same country as the staff accessing it. So why should workers go to the


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twould be easy to assume that the shiftwe’re seeing in the way people work, away froma shared physical environment to wherever is


home-worker, or a digital nomad, doesn’t suit everybody all the time. While surveys regularly findthat remotework is one of themost sought- after perks among employees, a study by the London School of Economics has shown that many of the positive effects of home-working can wane over time. Ultimately, it suggested, home-workers can even come to resent their employers and feel less loyalty towards them. This is because people naturallycometo miss


the buzz of human interaction, the creative energy and shared spirit of inspiration and inno- vation that comes frombouncing ideas around, face-to-face, with other people. This point has recently been powerfully highlighted by Andy Haldane, chiefeconomist attheBankof England.


Hub-and-spoke These are some of the reasons why the hybrid ‘hub-and-spoke’ model of working has contin- ued to emerge as the preferred way ahead for many businesses, with a significant boost to uptake during the pandemic. As its name suggests, this involves more


than one solution working in tandem. First, people can work primarily at home,


enabled fromthe centre by the technology they need to do their jobs and supported by regular communication, guidance and virtual meetings. Second, when they feel the walls of home


closing in, or need to be part of a physical meet- ing, they can travel a short distance to a local office or business centre close to where they live so they can interact with others. For several years, we have seen companies across the world begin to shift their operations to the suburbs and the towns where their employees actually


www.fDiIntelligence.com December 2020/January 2021


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