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The Death of the Office As We Know It?

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Since the pandemic, both home and hybrid working have now become prevalent across many businesses and sectors in Wales. But despite the differing opinions and recent indications from government officials, does this really spell the end of the office workplace?

Business News Wales spoke to Dr. Martin James, a Lecturer of People & Organisation at the School of Management at Swansea University, who says that the answer is unclear, but argues that the traditional places of work are not going to fade into history entirely.

He also elaborates on both the advantages and the disadvantages of home and hybrid working, recommending what business strategies can be implemented to both improve the home working experience and to keep employees incentivised within their organisations, therefore maintaining employee satisfaction and retention rates.

Martin says:

“What appears most likely based on the patterns that we are already seeing is an evolution rather than a revolution, with some roles in industries and sectors of industries adapting far more than others. It’s generally accepted that the death of the office is not going to happen, although the nature, the vocation and the meaning of “the office” is going to change significantly for many.”

“But at the same time, for a great many of us, we will see a cutting of the umbilical cord between our office work, and the tired and dreary offices spaces that we have been forced to work in the past.”

So what business strategies can organisations implement to maintain the productivity of their operations? And with concerns raised about mental wellbeing, isolation, and even discrimination due to the absence of a centralised physical workplace, what can businesses do to improve the home and hybrid working experience?

“I’d reiterate the point that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is likely to prove a bad one. In roles that are amenable to being fully remote (as in fully home working), there is an opportunity for management teams to outsource internationally, therefore fully optimising the potential cost savings. Now the risk there is that the product quality and the service quality may suffer, many brand names or organisations have repatriated remote roles for this very reason in the last decade or so.”

“My thought is that there is huge room for improvement, and this could come as no surprise really. The shift to home working for many organisations was a response to an emergency, it was a matter of making do and finding a way. There wasn’t much time to strategize around optimal solutions, there wasn’t much time to really think about the downstream effects of [issues] such as discrimination […]. In relation to such things, now that there is perhaps a bit more room for ‘big picture thinking’ and to consider some of the knock-on effects, I think it is time to move to the next stage.”