The future of work may have arrived, and flexibility may be here to stay, but Cook says “beware of the unexpected human costs”.
One recent survey from Microsoft found 54% of employees feel overworked when working from home, and 39% feel exhausted. Microsoft says the “digital intensity” of the workday has increased. An eyewatering 40.6 billion more emails were delivered by Microsoft in February 2021 than in February 2020, for instance.
“I, for one, couldn’t wait to get back to the office so I could connect with my colleagues face-to-face and rebuild that division between work and home,” Cook says.
Reimagining our economic powerhouses, a report published by EY and the Property Council in March, found young people are the most enthusiastic about returning to their office, and Cook is not surprised.
Young people, those new to the workforce, or those starting new jobs learn “on the job” from their managers and peers, Cook adds.
“When connection is remote, there are no chance encounters, no hallway conversations or small talk over coffee. You can’t mentor people effectively over Zoom and it’s much harder to network and build meaningful relationships. Is it any wonder productivity was smashed during Covid?”
Many of the leaders of Australia’s biggest businesses agree. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, who oversees 30,000 employees, has said “big companies cannot be successful if the whole workforce is working remotely most of the time”. While Alberton Calderon, CEO of mining multinational Orica, with 12,000 employees in Australia, has said publicly that “running a big company by Zoom is inefficient”.
“Working from home was good for JB HiFi and Bunnings and streaming services like Netflix and Stan,” Cook adds. “But if you want to get promoted or paid, you should head back to the office. If your job can be done from home, it can be done in Mumbai or Manila for a fraction of the cost.”