Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

Woman working on laptop.

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It’s tempting to think that, two-and-a-half years after remote working was forced upon many office workers, everyone would be getting the hang of it. 

And yet even now, I think, many workers and their managers are still struggling to understand exactly what this shift in the our working lives really means.

What’s become increasingly clear is the idea of everyone working from an office all day every day is no longer the automatic assumption is once was. According to one piece of research nearly half of office workers are now working either fully remote or in some kind of hybrid work arrangement. And they seem to like it (and are getting more sleep as a result).

Managers find themselves in the slightly odd position of having to persuade their workers to come back to the office. Even weirder, bosses are finding themselves asking people to come back into the office even if that makes them less productive.

Workers don’t want to stay at home because they can’t be bothered to commute.

They want to stay at home because many of them are more productive that way.

If you’re working a project that needs concentration and focus, an office full of people talking about what they watched on TV last night is pretty much the last place you want to be.

Of course, the wisest bosses – and workers – are willing to trade a little bit of short-term productivity for the chance to get their teams together at least once in a while to talk strategy, to come up with new ideas, or simply for a reminder of what it’s like to be a team with a common goal.

In some ways it’s entirely understandable why bosses would want everyone back in the office – that way they can at least see what people are up (and make sure they aren’t working a second or a third job during their 9 to 5).

What the shift to remote working has really done is exposed many of the oddities and tensions that have gradually been building up inside the average working day for a number of years. In the last decade or so the standard office set up has been making less and less sense because it was underpinned by an assumption that no longer held true (that people, data and the tools they used had to all be collected in one physical space). 

‘Quiet quitting’ and ‘quiet firing’ have always been issues, but they’ve become more obvious as we’ve started to challenge everything else about office life. Similarly, concepts like ‘overemployment’ are really the result of the rise of tech-enabled remote working, outsourcing and cloud computing, and it’s unlikely to be the last tech-fuelled workplace phenomena either. 

It’s very easy to see there will be a rapid evolution of working practices over the next year or two – a Cambrian explosion of working practices which will mean the working day of the near future will look totally different. 

Already looming on the horizon is the concept of the 4-day week which claims it can make us more productive and give us another day off every week. 

Throw in the arrival of the metaverse, and that means the ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ of our jobs are all in flux. 

Your working week is about to get weirder.


ZDNet’s Monday Opener is our opening take on the week in tech, written by members of our editorial team. 


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