Dec 15, 2021 - Economy & Business

A better work life awaits "Out of Office"

Out of Office

Credit: Penguin

The authors of a new book argue the shift to remote work holds the potential to change work life for the better.

Why it matters: As the Omicron variant puts the final nail in the coffin of a quick return to the office, it's long past time to figure out better work habits for a remote and hybrid era that will be with us for the long haul.

What's happening: In their new book "Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from Home," journalists Charlie Warzel and Anne Helen Petersen say remote work could be a boon in the future — provided it doesn't resemble the lonely, dysfunctional experience many of us have had for the past 20 months.

  • "We have to leave behind this understanding that whatever we have been doing before is what we will be doing moving forward," Petersen told me at an event today. "There are so many different and better ways to arrange remote work."

How (we) work: To prevent remote work from becoming all-consuming, Warzel and Petersen say companies need to establish meaningful guardrails between life and work, even if the latter is no longer taking place at the office.

  • And just as importantly, those guardrails need to be guarded by people in power.
  • "Too often, we celebrate the people who break those boundaries," said Warzel. "Instead, if someone breaks those rules, it means a manager should be taking them aside as they would if they broke some other code of conduct."

What to watch: How well companies can integrate young employees who entered the workforce remotely during the pandemic, and who never had a chance to build social capital and know-how in the office.

  • "Something we've seen work effectively with new employees is employers giving them a very clear understanding of exactly what they should be doing," said Petersen.

The bottom line: Company culture will look different in the new remote era — less about living to work than working to live.

  • "People are going to view their job more transactionally," said Warzel. "But that can help us build boundaries between work, work life, and personal life."
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