Exploring the Future of Work — and the Workplace
By John Elsasser
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Within days, “companies across the globe were shutting their offices, and many had little to no time to prepare their employees for getting work done entirely outside of office walls,” CNN reported.
Working remotely, once seen as a privilege for employees, became the norm — albeit with a steep learning curve both personally and professionally, especially with the breakdown of the boundaries between our work and home lives.
On the third anniversary of this workplace evolution, we’re exploring the future of work in this issue of Strategies & Tactics.
Hybrid work as the norm
For insights on the challenges and opportunities moving forward, I spoke with Jim Link, chief human resources officer at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
For Link, the days of office life circa February 2020 are over. “Whether it’s hybrid work or remote work, or alternative schedules or anything other than a traditional 40-hour work week, I refer to that space as ‘agile work,’ he told me in a recent Zoom call. “And that whole idea of agility is here to stay.”
Meanwhile, at the start of the year, several companies, including Disney, Twitter and Starbucks, started mandating more in-person days, or even a return to full-time office working patterns, according to the BBC.
Link cites SHRM research showing that 72% of companies say they would prefer to have everybody back in the office. “But the reality is, it’s not happening at the degree employers would like,” he said. “They have a tough time answering the question of whether we are better when we’re all in the same place for five days a week.”
According to a January survey of 1,806 U.S. workers by Monster, while half of employers believe giving their teams flexible schedules has gone well, one-third who planned to adopt a virtual or hybrid model have changed their minds from a year ago. Other studies have shown a mismatch between what employers and their workers want.
One leader firmly in the hybrid camp is PRSA member Anamaria Suescun-Fast, CEO of San Antonio, Texas-based agency talkStrategy. The self-proclaimed office traditionalist never understood previous trends of teleworking. She writes: “I couldn’t understand why people would want or need to work away from the office. How could it be done efficiently? I mean, how would it even work to not be in the office five days a week, face-to-face?”
By necessity, in 2020, her agency went fully remote. After giving up their office in 2022, her staff started the year in a collaborative space and are fully committed to a hybrid schedule moving forward. “We continue to listen, watch, experiment and prioritize our collaborative company culture,” she writes. “For now, at least, we seem to have it figured out.” Please visit this link for more of her insights.
Elsewhere in our feature package, which starts on Page 8, Scott Steinberg discusses ways to embrace flexwork, Leah Gladu and Patricia Campbell outline how to enable a change-resilient workforce, and Stephen Dupont, APR, Fellow PRSA, provides thoughts on telling the story of your organization’s future.
S&T Live in March
Aaron Kwittken, who writes on Page 8 about AI and the meteoric rise of ChatGPT, will be my guest on the next Strategies & Tactics Live. Tune in on March 22 at 1 p.m. ET for the conversation with the founder and CEO of PRophet, the first AI-driven platform built by and for PR professionals to better predict media interest and sentiment.