Double-edged swords or a threat to inclusion?
Exploring the consequences of hybrid working we may not have predicted.
Some companies are in the process of being transformed by emerging technologies and changing work patterns, resulting in a more dynamic and flexible work environment. Others are reverting back to their pre-pandemic norms around in-person work after temporarily flexing to hybrid or remote work. The unintended consequences of these changes, especially in the tech industry, likely go far beyond the challenges of hot-desking or the frustration when you forget to unmute yourself on a call.
For example, with the onset of purely remote jobs and the workplace becoming less of a fixed concept, will we start to see a divergence of personality types in organisations – ‘introvert’ companies and ‘extrovert’ companies?
Workplace introverts now have the option of getting jobs at companies committed to remote working, while workplace extroverts can write off full-remote offers and seek out workplaces with in-person or hybrid expectations. With ‘in person’ no longer the default, people can align their preferences around remote work with the norms of the companies. Will we end up with a self-selected ‘great sorting’ where organizations and employees with the same preferences gravitate to each other? Might it even be a positive thing for workplaces to be more aligned on their preferences for workplace socializing, in-person meetings, and ad-hoc water cooler chats? And will this be accelerated by mass layoffs in the tech industry?
At TVE, we can conceive working world might change so that Company A and Company B, offer similar products or services but are populated by different personality types. They then may make decisions that appeal to different clients or consumers based on the personality of their employees. Whether this is a positive natural evolution of the corporate landscape (and actually more inclusive) or something potentially harmful to organizations and employees on an emotional and intellectual level, we do not know.
Another potentially unforeseen challenge of our evolving ways of working is the interruption of passive information sharing. In years gone by, the soft and hard skills that new joiners pick up by osmosis, sitting next to more experienced colleagues, were taken for granted. A new challenge every new joiner is battling is: ‘Is this question worth an email?’ The answer is often ‘no,’ but these small queries could have been resolved in a matter of minutes, just three years ago, by turning to the colleague sitting next to you.
From an inclusion perspective, this is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, remote working opportunities are hugely inclusive for individuals who would have previously struggled with getting to an office or would not have thrived in an office environment and are no longer so excluded from corporate job opportunities. However, remote working can be isolating and, as discussed, hinder natural information sharing between team members. Both could have long-term impacts on people’s professional and personal development.
We will keep a close eye on any potential divergence of personality types, or other unexpected trends in this space, and keep you posted.