“It’s Life Jim, But Not As We Know It”

Rob Scott

Pondering Hybrid Work and the Digital Workplace

Insights
“It’s Life Jim, But Not As We Know It”

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…” 

If you’re like me, this is a phrase you remember well, thanks to the novelty song created by “The Firm” in 1987. Star Trekkin’ is one of those earworms that’s stuck with me for decades – but it’s not just a catchy tune.  

Since time began, humanity has been striving to eliminate the boundaries that may prevent life from evolving. We’ve worked to eliminate the boundaries of distance to all be more connected on a global scale. The telephone was invented to solve the problem of communicating across long distances to begin with. After that, we discovered the benefits of email, mobile phones, the internet, and social media.  

Over time, our ability to connect has evolved on a massive scale. We now have virtual reality, video, and other communication strategies that connect us more immersively than ever before. There’s even artificial intelligence available to translate conversations in real time and overcome language barriers, making remote conversations easier than ever.  

What Does This All Mean for the Future of Work? 

So now that life, as we know it, has changed so drastically, driven by changes in the way that we connect and communicate – what does this mean for the future of work? 

Well, first, for many of us the commute into the office five days a week is largely over. You might spend less time in the car than you’re used to. Business travel is likely to decrease, and meetings will happen more frequently in the digital world. Travel will be reserved for VIP connections, essential negotiations, and perhaps special occasions.  

Phone calls will also be reserved for specific occasions, as we discover that video communication is more immersive for most of our discussions. We’ll have a multitude of amazing ways to communicate and collaborate, and we’ll all have our own strategies on how to use each tool.  

The Trend of Hybrid Work 

The term hybrid work is trending right now, and it’s something that I find extremely interesting. When you think about the potential of hybrid work interactions for the future of the workplace, your colleagues could potentially join your team from anywhere in the world.  

As exciting as this flexible environment seems to be, it’s worth noting that any significant change in the workplace is going to come with a combination of opportunities and challenges. For instance, hybrid working could be more exposed to distractions than your standard workplace environment. One person could be answering the door to the delivery guy, while someone else is pedalling on their Peloton.  

Working in this new environment will require a certain level of etiquette in the digital workplace. We’ll need to determine how we’re going to interact in this new environment. This leads me to some interesting questions about the digital workplace, and how it might change: 

  • Will we continue to call people? 
  • Are all calls going to be announced with a message first? 
  • Will calls be appropriate, or will we need to arrange meetings? 
  • Can we turn up to meetings with video off? What might people think? 
  • Is it safe to enter meeting rooms in the office? Can people say no if they’re worried about COVID and other hygiene issues? 
  • Do meeting participants have the freedom to apply funky virtual backgrounds and fake moustaches during meetings? 
  • Is it okay to use persistent chat with colleagues during video conferences, to gain extra context on a meeting? 
  • Can you complain about meeting fatigue and request a video break? 

Adapting to the New World of Work 

There’s no doubt that this new work-life will have a huge impact on all of us. For some companies, the question may even arise as to whether we can be ourselves in video conversations and on collaboration tools – as AI seems to always be watching.  

The good news is that human beings are naturally adaptable, but we’re also highly social. I think many of us will agree that digital isn’t going to be a substitute for the real thing. Digital workplace alternatives might be trending, but the future is going to be in hybrid strategies that still maintain some human interaction. 

Sure, we’ll adopt digital for certain things, and digital innovation will continue to change our lives with things like AI and extended realities. However, we’ll need to be mindful that a world still exists outside of tech.  

“Its life Jim, but it’s not as we know it” never felt so relevant. 

 

 


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