Companies Must be Flexible, ‘Intentional’ in Future of Work Decisions According to Asana Head of EMEA

June 21, 2021 by Dan McCue
One World Trade Center and Goldman Sachs Headquarters, New York City. (Wikimedia Commons)

As companies large and small grapple with what the future of their workplaces will look like as the COVID-19 pandemic slowly recedes into the past, an employee management expert is advising employers to be flexible and “intentional” as they make their future of work decisions.

Writing for TechRadar, Simon O’Kane, a general manager with Asana, the maker of a web and mobile application for workplace management, notes that the workplace has radically changed since the emergence of COVID-19 last year, and the path forward won’t be the same for everyone.

For instance, while Ernst & Young and Goldman Sachs have determined that having employees work from home is not sustainable for their operations, others, like O’Kane’s own Asana, expect to continue a hybrid model for work — combining remote and in-person work at least in the near term.

“But we also recognize the benefits of face-to-face communication,” he writes in the piece. “Water cooler moments and impromptu co-creation simply can’t be replicated remotely, so as soon as it is safe to do so, we will be prioritizing an office-centric hybrid approach.”

According to O’Kane, despite the almost miraculous transition of companies around the world to remote work during the pandemic, it has been accompanied, all these months later, by a decline in productivity.

The culprit, he says, is “time-drain” exacerbated by excessive context switching, from searching for resources, chasing updates and going from one meeting to the next.

Burnout and app-switching are on the rise.

The workplace has radically changed from the first emergence of COVID-19. Almost overnight, the world transitioned to remote work, with little warning or preparation. Despite the efforts of many organizations to rapidly roll out the technology to help their teams navigate lockdown, productivity is on the decline.

“What would be an informal five-minute chat in the office, has been replaced by a 30-minute scheduled video call – with further time wasted in efforts to schedule the virtual meeting in the first place,” O’Kane writes.

Alongside this, workers are suffering from virtual meeting fatigue, and are having to log extra hours to compensate for this increased call time, he said.

O’Kane says in addition to addressing the burnout issue, having employees return to work will offer them renewed opportunities to collaborate, innovate and iterate in real-time. 

“When teams are in the same room, individuals can easily voice opinions, bounce ideas off of someone and easily raise a concern or opinion,” he writes.

He also points out that being in a centralized office enables managers and co-workers to more readily identify when one of their colleagues is in trouble or approaching burnout.

“Working in the same room as your team, you can see if a company process is faltering or is putting undue pressure on anyone – and perhaps more importantly, it’s much easier for individuals to feel safe to admit it. Allowing you to take action before the problem snowballs into a much bigger issue,” O’Kane writes.

All this said, O’Kane nevertheless believes it is important employers encourage flexibility by incorporating hybrid elements to an office-centric culture, providing employees with the ability to choose how they work – whether they want a space to be collaborative, or focus on individual workflow, either at home or in the office.

“Just as there wasn’t a blueprint for remote working, and there isn’t one for returning to the office either,” he writes. “We will take the lessons from our time working remotely, and use this to inform how we help teams to acclimatize to a post-pandemic world.”

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