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No one wants to spend the rest of their lives solely in front of a screen, neither at work nor at leisure. With that said, let's not make the mistake of starting all over again with shaping “the digital future” when the pandemic is over.
Coming out of the crisis, which might be the case for the world this autumn (or not, we can’t be reassured quite yet even if the vaccines have taken us a bit further by now), we should not try to rush things back to “how it used to be.”
Whilst a fair amount of us have been working remotely for almost one and a half years, many have been longing for lots of things to become more normal. Yet, when it comes to the workplace, do we really want to go back to the norms of pre-covid? If not, let’s use the current situation wisely and re-construct a new normal which is not confusingly similar to the old normal.
Total flexibility or back to normal
A year ago, several global giants more or less turned it into a game of betting over each other with visions of how remote future work culture could become. Some tech companies announced that their staff would never need to come back to physical offices again. There are some companies like Deloitte who also more recently have been stretching the flexibility concept more than others.
Yet, today more companies are signaling that as soon as the vaccines are handed out, it's time to get back to the office as we knew it before corona struck the world.
Does it really need to be this black or white? Remote or office? How do the grey shades look like – the hybrid flexible solution for both individuals and teams? Who can give a creative answer to this? Also, we need to consider what the risks associated with letting go of the flexibility which the pandemic has enforced upon us look like.
More productive and less sick
During the shaky year and a half of corona restrictions and various self-imposed measures, a lot has been revealed about work-life in general. According to recent studies, the benefits from the normal established during the pandemic range from enhanced productivity, higher life quality to gender equality.
A study done by Great Place to Work followed 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies and found that most reported stable or even increased productivity from working from home.
The possibility of attracting and hiring staff that is not limited to geographical boundaries is another positive benefit associated with more remote working.
Could, in fact, productivity be harmed by imposing more routine travel and office work? And how will the effects on sick leave be, as returning to crowding also means experiencing more diseases (not just covid-19)?
In the U.K, employees taking sick leave came to an all-time low during the previous year. One survey even showed how the numbers were the lowest measured since 1995.
More time for the essential and less for routine
In addition to the above insights, the larger question is: what message are we sending if we do not grab the opportunity to remodel the future right now?
Many of us have spent larger parts of the recent decade worrying, writing about, and debating digitization and pointing out the necessity of taking the digital future seriously. Making sure that all available technology and innovation are implemented and used typically enhances work and life quality, which in the long run enables more time for the essential and less for routine.
But what is the purpose of “digitalization” and all the policy and politics surrounding it if we are not willing to make use of all these new and enhanced possibilities in our daily lives?
There has never been a better time than now to reap all that has been sowed.