Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why the Future of Work Is at Home, Pacific Standard, February 12, 2016

We have argued that one reason that the office space per worker requirement will shrink in the future is that a higher percentage of workers will work from home.  This article takes that concept to a whole new level, highlighting why it could actually improve employee and company performance.

Here are some excerpts:

Why the Future of Work Is at Home

Even a cursory look at the social, environmental, and economic impacts of working from home indicates that even more people could and should be.




As more companies become privy to the psychology impact of office life on their workers, a new emphasis has been placed on creating positive and engaging work "cultures" and "experiences" in the workplace. But the issue is not just that spending five days a week in a negative office space with symbolic architecture is bad for workers: It is that five days in any office is bad for workers.

 

The group that worked at home demonstrated a 13 percent increase in performance and a nine percent increase in overall time spent on their work calls.


Last year, a Stanford University study of Chinese travel agency CTrip took 503 call center employees and divided them in half, one group working from home four days a week with one day in the office and the other half remaining in the call center as a control group for nine months. The group that worked at home demonstrated a 13 percent increase in performance and a nine percent increase in overall time spent on their work calls, due in large part to the reduction in time needed to take breaks and a decrease in sick days. Yet the study also found that those working from home were less likely to be promoted than their in-office counterparts, indicating that management continues to value hours clocked at one's desk over actual worker output. . . .

The solution to obsolete office spaces does not require wholesale abandonment of the office but increased flexibility about what it means to be an employee. Major corporations need not surrender their downtown high-rises in defeat, but they do need to approach these spaces differently to remain relevant. One solution is relying on smaller, more permeable office spaces based on the co-working space models that were once the exclusive purview of freelancers and small companies. The management of these spaces has become easier as co-working software management tools like Cobot have scaled up to manage larger companies. . . .

A cynical view of the state of the American labor force is that office parks and high-rises housing businesses are little more than glorified daycare centers for workers that suck fuel and waste usable land because management teams do not trust their employees enough to work without in-person supervision. A more forgiving view is that the American labor force has inherited spaces and conditions that simply don’t fit their needs but that are still worth attempting to salvage or re-imagine. The downsized office space should not represent a company defeated but a company resurrected as an exclusive destination for workers whose professional potential is recognized as inborn rather than unlocked only at their desks. It's time to recognize this as a reality of modern work rather than as a romantic notion.

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