The Future of Workplace Productivity is Hybrid
Elon Musk is wrong. His recent call (demand is more appropriate) that Tesla workers “must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla” will likely not increase productivity and very well may cut into employee morale.
One thing that the Covid pandemic has taught the world is that new, hybrid ways of working can be just as productive, and often much more satisfying, than being forced to travel long distances to sit in an office.
By demanding that non-factory workers show up in an office full-time, he is mistakenly equating time spent at work with productivity. We all have seen (and perhaps participated in) office days where our colleagues spend considerable time idly scrolling through websites, texting their friends, or hanging out in the kitchen. And in the bigger cities, such as those in Northern California, one of Tesla’s centers, a daily commute can be a multi-hour mind-numbing experience, draining an employee before they even step into the office.
Office workers overwhelmingly like working from home. In a February, 2022 study from the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of those surveyed said they’d like to continue working from home all or most of the time, up from 54 percent in 2020. And 64 percent of those who never worked from home before, say they find it easier to balance work and personal life.
As the Economist points out, the share of U.S. workers who are “engaged” at work has reached the highest level since 2020. That’s because “blurring the line between work and home makes it harder for firms to treat office staff as automatons.”
As with all political movements, trends, and cultural changes, we moved to the extreme once the pandemic forced virtually everyone who could, to work from home. But we’ve now gone back toward the middle, settling into a hybrid work environment, one where employees can spend some of their time in the office, and also be just as productive if not more so at home.
None of this would have been possible 20+ years ago. The lack of widespread high-speed internet access and primitive video conferencing tools would have forced workers into using expensive conference calls, booked in advance through a telephone operator (remember those?) And even when the pandemic began over two years ago, video conferencing tools were still short on features.
But today things are different. Video conferencing and collaboration tools have largely grown up. At BlueJeans, for example, new features include not only standard meetings, but the ability to break out meeting participants into interactive sessions, and then move participants from one room to another. Features like auto framing or virtual backgrounds make it easy for attendees to focus on what participants are saying rather than what’s happening in the room behind them; and meeting assistant features, like Smart Meetings, allow users to easily take notes for later reference, or provide the peace of mind to miss the meeting altogether!
Even specialized applications, such as BlueJeans Telehealth and BlueJeans for Corporate Learning & Training, are designed to further personalize and enhance the remote work experience across industries. And we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface on the development of augmented and virtual reality use with the likes of our Glass Integration and BlueJeans Spaces product. With the addition of these and other tools, the opportunities to successfully collaborate with dispersed teams are enormous.
Flexible work environments also allow organizations to collaborate with remote experts who would otherwise be unreachable. Considering we’re in a global talent shortage, currently standing at a 16-year high according to NASDAQ, businesses should be looking for new ways to stay competitive.￼
There’s no doubt that an effective workplace must foster employee interaction to enable new ideas to flourish and be communicated while doing so in a welcoming environment. It’s this outdated notion that work can only happen in the office that will hold organizations back—and lose out on top talent as a result. We should be meeting with purpose, whether that’s in person or online. And I, for one, look forward to witnessing how remote work technologies will continue to evolve to improve business operations and workplace dynamics for employees everywhere in the coming years. But Musk’s idea that those goals can only be accomplished by returning to the office is simply not true.