As expected, the debate over remote working and onsite working has continued into 2022. While we recently saw that a number of the big tech companies have postponed their return to work, Zoom has decided that this will not just be temporary situation, but is one that is likely to continue into the future.

But the San Francisco-based company has gone further than just allowing employees to work from home, it has also outlined a detailed strategy as to how this will work in the future. Earlier this week, at its Work Transformation Summit, a half-day virtual event designed to provide organizations with strategies and new approaches for redefining work, Zoom explained not only how it is approaching the problem, but also how other organizations could do so too.

At the heart of the strategy is what it describes as three broad categories, or “workstyles” which basically break down into remote, hybrid and onsite plans. What is interesting, is that only 2% of Zoom’s 4,400 workers will be working on-site. The decision to take this path was driven by internal research over a period of about six months that showed:

  • 98% of its employees are working remotely. (The other 2% includes employees whose roles primarily consist of on-site work like managing office spaces and supporting physical equipment.)
    • Its workforce grew from 2,400 to 6,100 employees from February 2020 to December 2021.

It also showed that at a global level, a hybrid work environment is overwhelmingly preferred to solely in-person and solely remote, while in the post-pandemic workplace, fewer than 20% of employees will choose to work from a company location as their primary workplace.

There was another notable item, although it’s not immediately quantifiable. Zoom reports that its employees are far more engaged working from home during perhaps the busiest period in Zoom’s 10-year history. 

Last week saw that big tech companies are among those that are pushing their return dates out. Facebook's parent Meta said this week that it is delaying employees’ return to offices across the U.S. until March 28. It had originally hoped to get everyone back by Jan. 31.

While it is in the interests of Zoom and its videoconferencing platform to find that people are happier and more "engaged" when they are allowed work from home, it is also clear from many different pieces of research that huge numbers of workers would like to stay working from home for the future. And Zoom’s approach is the right one. Instead of forcing workers back to the physical office, enterprises should work out a strategy that enables employees to work in a manner that keeps them happy and engaged.

Employee Engagement Hits Low Point

If Zoom’s focus on employee engagement and developing workplace strategies seems like common sense, then Gallup’s recent research on employee engagement will push any lingering doubts about the importance of it aside. What will be a concern for many workplace leaders this time around is the fact that for the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined in 2021.

The research, which is contained in the U.S. Sate of Workplace Engagement report showed that just over one-third of employees (34%) were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace, based on a random sample of 57,022 full- and part-time employees throughout the year.

This compares with 36% engaged and 14% actively disengaged in 2020, a year with unprecedented highs and lows. What is notable here is the fact the survey of workers for the first half of the year showed that 36% of workers were engaged, matching the 2020 composite result.

So why the fall? The report reads: “This may not be surprising given the many challenges leadership faced in recent months, including employees quitting in record numbers, implementing vaccine mandates, and planning for various combinations of remote and on-site work while trying to match worker preferences with leadership expectations.

It would seem that even the discussion as to how people will be working in the future is starting to have negative impact on morale in the workplace. To put a figure on it all, the report reads that the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged workers in the U.S. is now 2.1 to 1, down from 2.6 to 1 in 2020.

The report adds that among the engagement elements Gallup measures, the greatest declines were in clarity of expectations, having the right materials and equipment, and the opportunity for workers to do what they do best. There is a caveat here, however, that offers a silver lining to those managers and organization leaders that have actively engaged with the workforce. The report says not all organizations experienced declining engagement in 2021. "Gallup's review of the hundreds of organizations in our database finds positive momentum in 2021, mostly from organizations that actively practice employee engagement fundamentals," the report adds.

Like all Gallup reports, this one is not just a list of problems it does offer quite a number of solutions, not least of which is that managers and leaders need to go back to the basics and focus on them. “Employees' confidence that they know what's expected of them, have the right materials and equipment, and have the opportunity to do what they do best declined the most. Getting these basic elements right increases resiliency,” the report reads.

YOOBIC Develops Digital Platform For Frontline Workers

Meanwhile, New York-based YOOBIC, which develops a remote workforce enablement platform, is releasing YOOBIC ONE, an all-in-one digital workplace for frontline teams.

The new platform unifies task management, communications and training all into one mobile platform that is designed and built specifically for deskless workers. According to YOOBICK, there is an estimated 2.7 billion “deskless” (frontline and service) workers globally, accounting an estimated 80% of the world’s workforce. However, the company also estimate that only 1% of IT budgets is currently spent on them.

More to the point, as employers struggle with talent acquisition and retention during the ongoing Great Resignation YOOBIC ONE provides the all-in-one solution that is designed to address that employee engagement and job satisfaction. By streamlining management of operational tasks and eliminating busywork, and enabling more effective communication and engagement, YOOBIC ONE offers full visibility into performance and the ability to more easily recognize and reward success.

Learning Opportunities

The new predictive analytics features also offers users a way to identify gaps in operations, preempt compliance risks and address areas for improvement to enable companies to outperform the competition.

With the massive drop in engagement that Gallup has identified already, platforms like this may be the way forward, especially, if, as YOOBIC, has already pointed out there are so many deskless workers that are not being catered for in many digital workplaces.

Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Intel Corner Quantum Computing Market

One other subject that is really starting to gain traction and that is likely to have a significant impact on the workplace is the emergence of quantum computing. We’ve all heard about it and even the mainstream news media is getting excited about it. So, what exactly is happening.

It’s impossible to know really as for many companies digital transformation is still a challenge. Add a new way of computing into the equation and things could get really messy in the workplace. In fact, a recent report from CBInsights  argues that even though quantum computing is still it’s very early days, it's already sparking a revolution in technology.

The problem is that already it is being dominated by Big Tech, hence the title of the report which looks at how Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and Intel are establishing themselves as the masters of the quantum space through product launches, R&D projects, investments, partnerships, and more.

That said, however, the report also found that funding to quantum tech startups soared to record levels in 2021. Media interest in the space has continued to climb. New milestones and scientific breakthroughs are being announced at a quickening pace.

The report also points out that Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and Intel are already developing their own quantum computing hardware. Big tech companies have already been behind several breakthroughs in the space.

It also warns that quantum is only coming out of the shadows and already it is set to get bigger. Expect rising qubit counts and more frequent demonstrations of commercial applications. Cloud is also an early area of quantum competition for big tech. All of the top players have launched quantum computing services on their cloud platforms while numerous startups have partnered with big tech companies to offer remote access to a broad range of quantum computers.

Rackspace Buys Just Analytics

Finally, this week, San Antonio TX-based Rackspace has announced that it is buying Just Analytics, a which develops cloud-based data, analytics, and AI services. With a strong footprint in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region, the acquisition of Singapore-based Just Analytics, a Microsoft partner award winner, will give Rackspace regional ties into the Microsoft Azure ecosystem.

Just Analytics was founded in 2011 and has more than 100 employees headquartered in Singapore with additional employee presence in Vietnam and India. It helps clients design and create scalable data pipelines using its proprietary data platform, Guzzle,

The acquisition of Just Analytics ties into Rackspace’s growing professional services focus. It will get an experience employee base enabling it offer full IT s stack services. Rackspace will keep the Just Analytics brand for the foreseeable future as the company has built a well-known and respected brand among the leaders and customers of Microsoft Azure Data Analytics.