Return to Work vs. Return to the Office
Framing is a technique that communicators (and marketing people) use to push unstated, but heavily implied, messages into the discourse as part of an implied context. The framing in the above title caught my eye last week, and I think it's worth discussing.
Vaccinations are ongoing worldwide. Here in Washington State, due largely to politics at the federal level the last couple of years, the rollout has been slower than most would like because the supply of available vaccines has been limited. However, it is now proceeding apace (I finally got my own family vaccinated a week ago now).
One consequence of this has been that the pundits are now talking about how we are all preparing to "Return to Work". Here's that framing I was talking about. One thing that has been so remarkable about the last year is that, despite having business patterns totally disrupted, people leaving the office had a surprisingly small overall impact upon productivity, except perhaps to improve it slightly. I've been working pretty steadily throughout most of the pandemic, sometimes clocking in more than sixty hours a week. I never stopped working.
What did change was that as a society we proved, conclusively, that the need to go into an office, to spend two hours a day commuting, eight hours dealing with overloud conversations, interminable meetings, and the smell of burnt popcorn, was simply not there. Indeed, the more data-driven an organization, the less real need exists to cram people into the same building, watercooler conversations notwithstanding.
Corporate executives need to be preparing now for the post-Covid era, where many people are going to be very reluctant to go into the office because the need to do so is simply no longer there. Yes, it is a good idea to pull together people periodically to both establish esprit d' cor and brainstorm, but the era where everyone is crammed together in "open office" arrangements is probably now past. Navigating this new reality is likely to be a major challenge, one where managing the data involved in working will play a huge part.
This is why we run Data Science Central, and why we are expanding its focus to consider the width and breadth of digital transformation in our society. Data Science Central is your community. It is a chance to learn from other practitioners, and a chance to communicate what you know to the data science community overall. I encourage you to submit original articles and to make your name known to the people that are going to be hiring in the coming year. As always let us know what you think.
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