Tech giants Facebook1 and Twitter2 grabbed headlines in 2020 as both announced significant long-term moves toward remote work as a core workplace strategy. By contrast, Google—famous for its innovative, avant-garde workplaces—has made clear that its employees are expected to live within commuting distance of their assigned Google offices…and to return to those offices at least 3 days per week once circumstances allow.3 Similarly, Amazon has announced its plans for an “office-centric culture” going forward.4
Whether these approaches are as different as they appear is up for debate. Facebook, after all, has been one of the most active leasers of office space during the pandemic.5 But their shift towards flexible working nevertheless encapsulates the debate playing out in boardrooms and chatrooms across the globe: Will “going to work” ever be the same again?
A multitude of surveys have shown that working from home has been a positive experience for many employees.
The answer is almost certainly “no.” A multitude of surveys have shown that working from home has been a positive experience for many employees. They have found aspects of remote work beneficial to their performance, and they have enjoyed the upsides of working flexibly that they would like to retain in the future. But the longer people have been away from offices, the more they have missed their colleagues. For some, inadequate work infrastructure or crowded, distracting living spaces are an ongoing trial. And self-perceptions of productivity, while useful, do not capture everything important about knowledge work.
To understand how this will play out, we explore the multiverse by answering several key questions:
- What do employees actually want?
- Why do we still need offices?
- Does flexible work…work?
- Does workplace quality matter?
- What will life in the Multiverse of Work look like?
1. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/5/21/21266570/facebook-remote-work-from-home-mark-zuckerberg-twitter-covid-19-coronavirus 2. https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/keeping-our-employees-and-partners-safe-during-coronavirus.html 3. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/14/google-ceo-email-delays-return-to-sept-2021-no-permanent-remote-work.html 4. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-return-to-office-covid-19-pandemic/ 5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/13/nyregion/big-tech-nyc-office-space.html