Some countries are slowly emerging into a post-pandemic mode. The nature of work, or at least where it is done, has changed for many people. Zoom, like Google before, has become a verb. The video conferencing company commissioned a report on the future of video communications.
“Most countries heavily favored a hybrid business environment, with about two-thirds of survey takers preferring a mix of virtual and in-person working environments. Many cited the fact that they didn’t have to leave their homes and could stay safer virtually, but the main downsides were the lack of a personal connection as well as a poor technical connection or other tech issue. When asked about the future of business travel, most countries expect to travel for business purposes about the same or less than they did before the pandemic.” —Qualtrics Report 2021
The term ‘hybrid work’ is increasing in usage. It seems this is what many people prefer — an optimal mix of commuting, office camaraderie, and working from anywhere. But is hybrid the best way to organize work in the network era?
“And whenever there is a head office, a physical co-located space where leadership resides, there will always be two ways of communicating. To get everyone on the same level, a company would need leadership to leave the shared office so no single physical place holds more power than another. Realistically, however, most leadership in hybrid-remote firms will keep working from the head office, degrading the default way of working from ‘remote-first’ to ‘remote-allowed’, where remote employees are not penalized for working outside the office, but are also not proactively integrated into the fabric of the company.” —Wired 2020-12-07
Hybrid workplaces have the potential to create two classes of workers — insiders and outsiders. For example, Instacart was reported to have directed that managers can work from home but entry-level workers had to come into the office.
“The tension between Instacart employees and management highlights the quandary that many tech companies will likely face as they begin to reopen their offices. While organizations like Twitter and Coinbase have committed to going fully remote, others are attempting a hybrid approach that will doubtless leave some workers frustrated.” —The Verge 2021-05-11
I recently gave a presentation to the Tech Hiring Conference, entitled — It’s not remote work, it’s distributed. A summary was posted on distributed work last month. I suggested that we stop calling it ‘remote work’, because this assumes a central location. ‘Distributed work’ treats everyone as an equal member of the enterprise, no matter where they are located or working from.
At the beginning this pandemic, management was the key obstacle to telecommuting. Let’s not go back to that ‘old normal’ mentality.
Our recent report showed that many workers we surveyed viewed managerial and executive resistance to telework as a major obstacle.
Through interviews, we learned that executives saw the benefits of using flexible work to their advantage as a negotiating tool for recruitment, promotion, retention and motivation, but they often worried about the costs of training and potential culture change.
They expressed concern that allowing telecommuting could create inequitable outcomes in the workplace, and possibly negatively impact morale. —The Conversation 2020-01-09
My principle of network management — a modern alternative to scientific management — is based on willing cooperation between equals. A hybrid model creates different classes of workers and maintains the wall between management and workers. Hybrid workplaces are an effort by management to hang on to power and privilege for as long as possible.