Financial Times
Sept 10, 2021

More than a year and half since the coronavirus pandemic began, vaccines may offer a way out of the crisis. But the impact on the world of work is unlikely to fade. Those hoping for a return to office life as it was are likely to be disappointed. The reality is that work will be marked by hybridity, using technologies that once played second fiddle to face-to-face communication. Making the most of this will require employers to shift their thinking on what it means to stay connected, and to consider how best to deploy technology.

The semi-return to the office poses several challenges, says Ashok Krish, global head of digital workplace at Tata Consultancy Services. Some, such as varying levels of connectivity, are obvious. Others are equally important but perhaps less evident. “We are now all working in a mode that maximises our individual productivity,” says Krish, “which means it becomes harder to co-ordinate and bring people together at the same time, being present and be willing to contribute.”

The response from managers has been to focus on setting up too many online meetings, he says, but while the number has risen, the amount of attention paid in each has fallen. Few will be unfamiliar with Zoom fatigue, the result of frequent and overlong meetings marred by poor connections and often irrelevant conversations. In part, that represents a somewhat limited approach to technology. Certainly, teleconferencing has been a vital tool for practically every white-collar industry, allowing both intimate work meetings and global conferences to continue. But the most popular apps are not the only options for digital meetings — there is a rich seam of alternatives that bring more inventive and free-form styles.

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