The Future of Remote Work in a Post-Pandemic World
Professors Stephanie Payne and Mindy Bergman address the pros and cons of a hybrid work week and the broader effects of remote work on both workers and the workplace.
Written by Tiarra Drisker ’24
Originally posted to The College of Arts and Sciences on September 14, 2022
COVID-19 forced many Americans to work remotely. As organizations continue moving back to in-office work, some are adopting a hybrid work week in which employees work remotely some days and in person on others. Employers and employees alike contemplate how this will affect productivity, office culture and overall worker satisfaction.
While working from home became commonplace for many Americans during the pandemic, the opportunity to work remotely previously was viewed more as a benefit before it became essential for most workplaces in the spring of 2020. Now that more workers have experienced working remotely, some are demanding more remote work opportunities, such as a hybrid work week.
“We know that there are some perks and benefits from working remotely, but there are challenges as well,” said Stephanie Payne, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University. “Many people have had the opportunity to experience working remotely. Some people have figured out that they like it and its benefits. Some people have found that they don’t like it, and some people see pros and cons of both. The hybrid idea bundles together the pros and cons of working remote and working in person.”
A hybrid work week is only a small factor when it comes to productivity in the workplace, according to Payne.
“There are a lot of different variables that contribute to productivity,” Payne noted. “It’s a function of the relationship between the employee and the supervisor and their knowledge and skill levels to do the tasks. There’s a lot of individual difference variables that also contribute to that. Generally, people like to go to work in an environment where they feel welcome, valued and where they feel like they have something to contribute. That’s not necessarily a function of the structural characteristics of the workplace, but it is about the relationships that we build and how our supervisors, peers and colleagues treat us in the workplace.”
The hybrid work week provides many benefits: avoiding the hassle of commuting; allowing employees to do some household chores when they are not busy; and allowing employees to become less sedentary because they are not confined to a desk. Detractors also point to its cons, such as possible loss of workplace culture, hallway chit-chat and overall loss of community.
“This is something that can be fixed if you have a plan for it,” said Mindy Bergman, professor and interim head of Texas A&M Psychological and Brain Sciences. “You could have a group chat that is open during the day so you can just send ideas through there. You could have outdoor gatherings where people are in the same general vicinity, or you could have virtual gatherings where you have lunch together and talk about things work-related or not. You just have to rethink these things.”
Working remotely as well as the hybrid work week may have its pros and cons, but ultimately, its success depends on how well the processes and management of a workplace are already established.
“If people are managed well, qualified to do their work and motivated, there should not be a loss in productivity from work from home,” Bergman shared. “It’s a matter of realigning how the work is done. That might be a change in process or a change in management that you have to tend to. One of the most important things is making sure management understands how to monitor work from home correctly.”