A debate is raging across the world about the future of work. The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed the beast that is hybrid work, and how the world balances working in offices with working from home is a conversation happening in boardrooms and at breakfast tables. But there is a lot more at stake for society than how often you need to commute. The way of working that is emerging could fundamentally alter elements of modern life that have held true for a century.
Bisnow's five-part podcast series will take a deep dive into this new future, hearing from a plethora of experts from different fields, ranging from academia to online dating, city officials to schoolchildren, and of course the real people choosing how to work in the future, to find out how the new world will take shape and the knock-on effect this will have on our lives. How people work in the future will have an immeasurable impact on our cities and their real estate.
"I mean, this is a major evolution, I think the potential in the long run is pretty exciting."
Technology allowed companies to keep themselves afloat during the pandemic as staff worked from home. As the world moves forward, could finding the right balance between offices and remote work unlock the productivity boom that economists have been expecting for decades?
"I've had multiple managers say things like, you know what, my frontline employees are really angry, they're really angry."
The ability of people to work remotely more often post-pandemic has the potential to hugely enhance diversity in the workplace. But if society gets it wrong, it could cause already stark income inequality between higher and lower earners to grow, and the dominance of White men at the top of the corporate ladder to become further entrenched.
"So here's a dirty little secret that people don't like to talk about. Managers actually have no idea what their employees are actually doing or could do the jobs of their employees."
The office isn't only about work — it's a place of friendship, rivalry, love, sex, self-discovery, triumph and failure. To truly understand the future of the office, that is something you have to grasp. The pandemic changed our relationship to our jobs, and in future, managers and companies have the chance to embrace a more humane way of working that can fundamentally alter the role work plays in our lives, whether it is being done at home or in the office.
"Here’s a provocative idea that the real estate industry and corporate world should stop and ponder for a long minute. You never need to build a new office building again."
Can working from home save the planet? It is up in the air whether the average worker pumps out more carbon sat at home or commuting into the office. But if demand for offices does drop, the real estate sector and occupiers need to wean themselves off their addiction to new office construction, and start making the buildings we already have more energy efficient.
"We are trying to just survive."
For half a century big cities like London and New York had been 'escalators of opportunity' drawing ever-growing numbers of young workers with the promises of glamorous jobs and a glamorous life. The pandemic changed that. Now cities need to reinvent their economic model.
Jonesing for more like this? Check out Bisnow's Make Yourself At Home podcast.