Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

What’s next for remote work?

The virus has broken through cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work in the past, setting in motion a structural shift in where work takes place, at least for some people.

Anne says: This week my attention has been drawn to the number of articles which are presenting both a retrospective and future vision for ways of working and workplaces. No surprises I guess, as we hurtle towards the end of the year and start looking forward to next year. But – as we all know – this was no normal year and 2021 is shaping up to be just as disruptive. Segue to the research report from McKinsey Global Institute: What’s next for remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries. This report is one of the more robust reports being presented at the moment, not only for the size of the research project (beyond mere anecdotal experiences) but also it’s findings and analysis that are positioned in important caveats that many others ignore.

Firstly, there’s an acknowledgement that hybrid models of working being promoted are likely to continue for some time (well, into the future) but (here’s a caveat) it will be mostly highly educated, highly skilled, well paid minority of the workforce. Secondly, they consider the term workplace – where work is performed. This is no longer simply the office. Workplace will be contextual, at home, in an office, or some place else. It’s where work is performed.

Now some findings that stand out:

  • Remote work is determined by tasks and activities, not occupants.
  • More than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely 3 – 5 days a week as effectively from home or an office.
  • More than half the workforce has little or no opportunity for remote work.
  • Social inequalities risk being accentuated by remote work.
  • Finance, management, professional services and information sectors have the highest potential for remote work.
  • Potential for remote work is higher in advanced economies.
  • Women could experience increase gender inequality.

Each of these findings is explained further in the report. But again, a couple of standouts highlight the changes and adjustments that will be required maintain productivity. Digital infrastructure for starters. Many organisations cobbled together a range of platforms to keep people connected and able to continue working. However, this will not be sustainable over the longer term remote workers. Now is the time to review what is required in the hybrid models, how can organisations best support people in their workplaces (office, home or wherever). The impact on urban environments. While we’ve been working from home (depending on restrictions) people have re-discovered their local neighbourhood services and cafes. Commuting and transport needs change. Different spaces for working – some hotels are already re-developing rooms to video conference centres, hired on an hourly basis. Here in Barcelona, they are re-designing areas to accommodate more pedestrians, bicycles and de-prioritising cars, widening pavements to allow for social distancing and more outdoor eating, while building a village style infrastructure with digitally supported services.

However, it was the final comment that I found somewhat out of place and amusing.

For most companies, having employees work outside the office will require reinventing many processes and policies. How long before someone invents the virtual watercooler?

Ummm – many companies already have innovated their social cohesion and it’s not all Zoom related!

This closing comment aside, the report provides a useful context for organisations developing hybrid models to include remote working. What considerations or consequential impacts need to be addressed for implementation to be effective? The missing element for me was culture and I think it needs to read in combination with the Deloitte report I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.


Virtual HQs race to win over a remote-work fatigued market

Jakkii says: While Anne’s piece this week explores what comes next for remote work, my piece this week takes a look at ‘Virtual HQs’.

In retrospect, 2019 feels like the working world’s last dance with spontaneity.

Oof. Isn’t that the truth! Spontaneity, or the lack thereof, has been a commonly raised challenge in discussions of remote work and, particularly, how any future ways of working that involve remote or hybrid models might allow for the spontaneity that working in the same location has afforded us for so long.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a number of companies have turned themselves to figuring out how to solve this very problem. According to TechCrunch, there are three that have ‘risen to the top’: BranchGather, and Huddle.

The platforms are all racing to prove that the world is ready to be a part of virtual workspaces. By drawing on multiplayer gaming culture, the startups are using spatial technology, animations and productivity tools to create a metaverse dedicated to work.

The rest of the piece is quite an interesting discussion about the concepts behind the platforms – and the challenges ahead to convince investors that they are real, valuable workplace tools (and not just, as the article puts it, “Sims for the enterprise”). The key point to me, essentially, is that what these platforms are looking to do is to take what we know already about online socialisation and collaboration through gaming, and blend it into tools designed for work and the workplace.

The article closes by saying:

Before the pandemic, the world was not culturally ready for widespread remote work. Then, COVID-19 forced offices closed and employees adapted. These startups are betting that with the mass adaptation will come another cultural shift, one that could bring the metaverse into mainstream.

It’s hard to disagree that additional shifts will come not just from mass adaptation to covid, but also from adaptation to the possibility of future pandemics and widespread disruption. Of course, whether the future proves to “bring the metaverse into the mainstream” or not remains to be seen, but what I think has become clear this year is that we do need to be thinking about what new or different technologies can bring to our workplaces and the future of how work gets done.


Around the house

Jakkii says: Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers and people who otherwise choose to celebrate! And for those who don’t, happy weekend! Here’s your weekly roundup of things to read, watch and do from home while you’re staying safe and staying healthy throughout the pandemic.

Friday Funnies

US Election Friday Five

Misinformation Friday Five

Related: Facebook reveals one in 1,000 content views on its platform include hate speech

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Bonus: Secret Amazon reports expose the company’s surveillance of labor and environmental groups

Social Media Friday Five

Bonus: 98 million TikTok followers can’t be wrong

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: we dive into the complex shadow world of trading location data from innocuous apps.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

07:42 – How the military buys location data from ordinary apps

Other stories we bring up

Deutsche Bank proposes a 5% tax for people still working from home after the pandemic

Fortnite maker Epic Games sues Apple in Australia

Our previous discussion of the epic Epic/Apple battle on The Future, This Week

Google photos and the case for breaking up big tech

Netflix is testing a linear channel in France

Australia charged with discouraging electric vehicles

New petrol and diesel cars sales to be banned in the UK after 2030

It doesn’t matter who owns TikTok

Our previous episode on the US attempting to ban TikTok and WeChat

The Trump campaign has spent $4 million buying voter information

Law enforcement tracks phones through apps, not warrants

NYT shows how your apps know where you were last night

Our previous discussion around military privacy breaches and Strava on The Future, This Week

The complex MarTech landscape

More on the Trump campaign buying location data

How ad tracking works

Facebook’s ad sales in China


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