Two years back, the world unceremoniously rang in a catastrophic new decade. For the first time in ages, humanity has been cruelly confined to the 'home sweet home'. We are in 2022 and still reeling through the third (omicron) wave. The horrors of the delta wave are fresh in memory, and honestly, absolute relief seems nowhere in sight. Many offices have been shut indefinitely ever since and found a new lease on life in the virtual space. Evolving from the popular Work-from-home (WFH) model, recently, the hybrid model of work came into force, where some return to offices while most of us continue to contribute from our home offices.
In a way, this "new normal" is a major marker of our times. We are living in an age where homes are remolded into offices, and laptops are our closest colleagues. In hindsight, this feels like the beginning of a virtual age, which unlike in the past, is not limited to large corporations or leading world economies. Many, in fact, term this as the NEXT GREAT DISRUPTION in the way of human life. But this change is plagued with some exhaustive set of questions; for how long will this change last? Is this 'new normal' a forever thing? What's in store for the coming generations?
Let's look for some answers.
In March 2020, when we were only a couple of months into the pandemic, businesses, new and old, vigorously began marketing themselves and seeking a surrogate in the virtual space. It seemed sudden, but not so much. Much like shooting in the dark, some of them succeeded while others met with depressing failures. For small enterprises, especially in countries with limited digital literacy, the internet was barely a saving grace. Nevertheless, today experts unanimously agree that the pandemic swiftly catalyzed the growth of a magnificent digital world and in ways previously unknown.
But it has had some major drawbacks. According to one study, one in five people, who have been working from home for over a year now, have reported a loss of work-life balance. Business leaders, on the other end, have fared better, as many of them have achieved growth in multifold without any severe disruption in routine life. There is lurking angst and a sense of dissatisfaction amongst the working class; the virtual mode seems to be doing everything for the employer and folks at the top, but barely for its employees and people at the bottom. Increased productivity is effectively masking one bitter truth: our workforce is in a state of chaos and approaching a systemic breakpoint.
Many employers have either failed to address the sheer lack of resources and assistance with their employees or have inhumanly pushed them to overdeliver in a pandemic stricken world. The digital overload is as real as it gets. In another study, it was found that the worst impacted generation is Gen Z. Those who have just recently graduated and aim to enter into the workforce find it exceedingly difficult to find real opportunities virtually, while those already into the dynamic have a hard time creating a unique space that supports career growth in remote business setups. Reportedly, they sense decreased work enthusiasm, feelings of massive disconnect, and a shrinking space for innovation.
But even with all its downsides, most analysts believe that the hybrid workspace, and more importantly, the WFH mode, shall continue to exist, even after the pandemic ends! Companies will continue to operate on the digital front, with many employees demanding an extremely flexible work environment and possibly the best of both worlds. This also signals a crucial redesigning of the very fabric of our social life. In many ways, we may be already living our future. Take, for example, the concept of "metaverse". All the virtual meetings, events, and even people marrying online (that's true!) are assembling a new universe within our existing one.
It seems like digital platforms have finally received their big raise; our IP addresses will be where people find us. So for most of us, offices will continue to exist at our desktops as we brace ourselves for the next career milestone. In all likelihood, WFH is here to stay, and the longer we deny, the greater the FOMO. (Who knows this better than us!)